Why Stories

I suggested in my last post that this post would be more like my typical posts. Sorry. Doesn’t seem to be happening.

I usually use my posts to tell stories. I prefer to tell what happened, offer, perhaps, a few words about how I understand the events, and let it go at that. Events – that is, stories – mean so much more than my ideas, thoughts or reasoned arguments. It is life itself that means; I can’t add anything, I can only point where my eye has been drawn.

I am aware that I cheat some. In commenting on the stories, no matter how briefly, I am adding content. Perhaps that says that I don’t trust the stories enough, that I don’t have enough confidence in readers to stay out of their way. Or perhaps it just means that I, like many people and all writers, want desperately to be understood. So, here I am, spewing ideas without telling a story.

I want to be understood. There are a few things I want people to really get.

Ironically, stories are far more likely to bring understanding; words, themselves, are inadequate but when we fashion them into an approximation of life, by telling stories, life may speak.

I would like to share a few lines of a story that has become important to me, a story written centuries ago, that is attributed to Meister Eckhart, the German mystic. The story itself relates a series of conversations between a contemplative nun and her confessor. These lines are spoken by the nun near the end of the story, after she has achieved her goal of spiritual union with God:

You should know, that whoever contents himself with what can be put into words — God is a word, the kingdom of heaven is also a word — whoever does not want to go further with the faculties of the soul, with knowledge and love, than ever became a word, ought rightfully to be called an unbeliever.

That’s it, right there. The things I cherish cannot be contained by words – and words are my best tool. So, as a poet evokes great meaning by using words to draw that meaning out of the reader’s inner experience, a story-teller puts life in front of the reader’s eyes and lets life say what words cannot.

Life’s most important statement is love. But, if you content yourself with that of love that can become words, you ought rightfully be called an unbeliever.

I seldom say, “I love you,” but I try to show it, make it manifest, every minute. Here is a brief story that shows how badly words fail love:

I had my first cancer-related surgery on October 26, 2007. It was a monstrous, six and a half hour re-arranging of my internal plumbing, putting it back together with fewer parts. My first conscious memory after the surgery was being wheeled out of the elevator on the fourth floor, and down the hall to the critical care units. Two nurses in blue scrubs were moving me.

I remember being slid from the gurney to a bed in critical care. There were tubes and wires all over to be shifted with me.

Then my wife was there, kissing me.

Family members came in, no more than two at a time, to see me. My wife was there, letting people in, watching, telling them when their time was up. I mostly remember my daughter being there.

When we were alone, my wife came next to me and held my hand. I was curled on my right side. I was comfortable. It was late afternoon, and the room was bright. I said something, and she leaned closer to hear.

I said, “No one can love you the way you deserve to be loved. Only God can love you the way you deserve.”

To this day, she insists I was delirious.

Aside, addendum, whatever:
My surgery to remove a small, suspicious mass from my lung is tomorrow morning. I’m physically, mentally, and spiritually ready. I’ve had a great day and a great week.

When I got home this evening, I found a missed call from my friend Jerry Wyman’s house. Jerry died of esophageal cancer early this morning after a battle of more than two and a half years. He was a good man and a strong man, and he brought great dignity to sickness. In his closing years, he was a hero for love. And he blogged until just days before his death. In his words, carry on everybody.

4 responses to “Why Stories

  1. This Meister Eckhart quotation perfectly sums up a discussion my wife and I were having about several scientists writing in Scientific American about”proof” that there is no afterlife — they and other posters online cited Dirac, the Law of Conservation of Energy, etc. — in other words, using “words” — (stretching a bit into mathematical concepts) as proof. They felt they had a duty to inform the rest of us that it’s all just wishful thinking. When all about them lies the reality beyond….
    A further quotation, I can’t recall it exactly, in the Narnia series when Eustace meets a retired star. “In our world,” he says, “stars are flaming balls of gases.” “That’s only what they are made of,” says Aslan, “not what they are.”

  2. PS: Good luck! We’ve been holding you in the light

  3. Pingback: Toward a Unified Theory of Everything | Something Entirely Different

  4. Pingback: My Dear Govinda: | Something Entirely Different

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