Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Scattered Brain, part 3

*This is a parsing of an article that originally appeared in Storytelling World magazine in 1997

Version x.x.x 
Each new software package is incrementally defined as version x.x.x of an incomplete and never-finished idea-set.  Are we cracking the silly idea that a thing is made and maintains its shape immutably?  That meaning is constant? All things change.  All things are in some state of iteration, always shifting.  Set in stone?  It is the property of stone to diminish.  Organic?  Living?  If so, then growing and evolving.  We live between the last version and the next version. Storytellers have always known this. But the market place has a vested interest in keeping things unfinished in order to keep the customer.  "Keep the customers satisfied" becomes "dissatisfy the customers in order to satisfy them."  This is how Scheherazade survived: with perpetually unfinished stories. We are sold software and systems that are not ready and then charged for the more complete (but still unfinished) version, paying for the privilege of beta-testing someone else's product. While we rush ahead to get the latest version, all new and improved, we are littering our lives with all the old, obsolete versions.  Our lives are cluttered with the hard and soft wares we abandon on impulse as our scattered brains chase the latest hot item.  The more we neglect the past, the more we will be burdened by it. How did grandma get to be sick and alone in a wolf-infested woods, anyway?
Story Technology 
Stories, as technology, enhance memory and understanding.  Storytellers are a sensual, human medium.  Modern electronic media pretends to respond to its users, but is hopelessly remote and uninvolved.  The user who stays too long at the hearth of such media may suffer a kind of sensory deprivation.  The storyteller brings touch in the form of aural stroking and warmth in the form of being truly present.  Neuroscience now confirms what ancient voices have always known: storytelling is important emotive and cognitive technology.  Storytelling as true virtual reality, transfers experience while massaging the listener and influencing growth. 
Storytelling is re-minding the user at the center of the scattered brain; directing attention back to the primary and the near.  Storytellers are strengthening our ability to endure long, considered thinking: to listen, to reflect, to discern, and to feel deeply and knowingly. McLuhan and Powers continue: "There is no inevitability where there is a willingness to pay attention." 
Within our scattered brains we seek something, hungrily, in the bright distracting lights around us.  Yet we are perpetually dissatisfied. We are like Nasruddin searching in the sunlight for the gold coin he knows he lost in the dark. 
So busy were we 
moving papers around the room 
we failed to see the East 
and the dawning of the day. 
So worried were we 
at the tallying of doom 
we failed to see the South 
and the brightening of the bay. 
So certain were we 
at the importance of our task 
we forgot to note the West 
and the fading of the light. 
So lost were we 
we forgot to ask 
 the sirens of the North 
the meaning of the night. 

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