Living in the Story

New stage curtains at the 7th Street

Welcome to The Show. ... (Photo credit: Mickey Thurman)

A beginning, middle and end. That’s what they say every good story needs – “they” being the lords of writing. But I disagree. The “beginning” part would seem obvious, I suppose – everything has a starting point, right? But look again: There’s a lamp on my desk. There’s a definite point in time at which that lamp was made; we would call this the beginning of the lamp’s existence, yet all the materials comprising the lamp were there before that. And all those materials, whether natural or man-made, can be traced back to organic roots – the trees, for example, from which came the fibrous material of the lampshade. And those organic ingredients, whether tree, dirt, air or water, can all be traced back to the beginning of this world, which can be traced back to the beginning of this universe, and so on. In other words, no matter where a story “starts,” there is always something that came before. So much, then, for beginnings.

And endings? The common belief, especially in today’s TV- and movie-saturated culture: Fade to black, roll the credits, hope you enjoyed the show. Everyone knows that the curtain always falls at some point. It has to. I mean, there are other things to do, places to go, people to see. What we don’t realize, however, is that all we’re doing is segmenting our time. One thing may “end,” but another immediately follows. In other words, no matter where a story “ends,” there is always something else after, always one more coming attraction. So much, then, for endings.

That would seem to leave only the middle, but if there’s no true beginning or ending, there can be no middle. Only a constant, continuously running tale. There’s history, yes – the part of the story that’s past – and there’s prophecy – the part of the story yet to come – but history and prophecy are not beginnings and endings – they are simply segments of the story.

And what of it all? Philosophical mumbo-jumbo, is likely what you’re thinking; a mere splitting of literary hairs; dancing a syntax jig. Tell me, then – if you think that way – why we never want to see a good story end, and why we often want to know what happened before the “beginning” that we were shown. Are those not hints that there is a “before” and an “after”? If no such things existed, why would we seek for them? Imagine it: A story that goes forever into the past and forever into the future, and is forever in the here and now. What would we say about such a story, if it existed? What would we do about such a story? Would we want to hear its telling, or see it played out in front of us? I know that I would. I know that I

do. Better still, what if you, and I, were a part of this story, not only spectators but participants? Would not our interest level then rise from mere curiosity to an urgent desire to know? An unshakeable sense that you, and I, each have a significant stake in what’s happening, and that our actions here are consequential, even crucial?

Perhaps you think that’s prideful, insolent.

Such was the belief of David’s brothers about him … until he slew Goliath.


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