Thursday, 25 February 2010

726 - Story Nations

Another day, another dispiriting prognostication from the evangelical church people I left fifteen years ago. I won't link to it: it's on Facebook. But apparently we're all going to hell in a handcart.

Why do I bother? Because it's not the world, it's not even the Christianity I recognise, that's why. I love these people. I want to shake them out of their isolationism. I don't think Christianity is about the nailing of one's life to a single story - or if it is, it's the story that there are as many stories open to us as there are, well, us. So no probs if part of the story you want for yourself is the traditional evangelical one. But equally, you might choose something completely different.

And this is where the excitement starts. Because there is a universe of stories open to us. An old Jewish proverb says God created people because he loves stories. The Gospels say there are so many stories about Jesus all the books in the world couldn't contain them. See, Jesus gets it. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, especially now that the technologies are burgeoning where we can rehearse and test those stories in safe places (any such place is a church), can manipulate our identities, can recognise our common humanity in law, to stop us creating those stories real life, real time.

That, my dear, dear religious friends, is the Kingdom of God.

And kingdom is an interesting word. Nowadays, as we've experimented beyond monarchy, nation might be a better choice. Also a interesting choice, because nation-states are the means by which, in a modernist secular society, we identify our public allegiance acceptably. But we're no longer modernist, we're postmodernist, and the nation-states are crumbling. At the very least, in the developed world, we could do with finding new ways to express our identity, to replace the over-consumption of resources by which we've maintained and projected our own lifestyles, but depleted the lives of others. That's one way of putting the argument in Geoffrey Miller's book, Spent, by the way.

(And what's with the word lifestyle anyway? Like we only ever select one, to which we are then bound, till we can sustain it no longer. No character development, no plot twists: what successful story ever paces monotonously along in the same style from start to finish?)

So my proposition is that we recognise our new great resource to be the stuff of our identity, the stories we choose to inhabit, and that from now on, those nations that are richest in the world are the nations where the most various stories are told, and where the freedom to tell them is greatest.

By tell, of course, I mean live.

Here's a daydream, by way of jottings in the margins of my copy of Volume I of Christopher Partridge's great book, The Re-Enchantment of the West:

The birth of Story Nations... nations whose peoples are informed by a voluntary delight in stories and story creation; where from the abstraction of a page in a closeable book, the story is drawn into oneself - like the book people of Fahrenheit 451, but into one's very lived self and the actions therefore that one performs....

Was it ever really possible before? The sheer interaction of such stories, the possibilities inherent...? The lightness of such footfall on the Earth?

The only metanarrative one will ever need is provided by one's innate being. But it's a truism that what one needs and wants are not always the same. Why not, then, as one builds a beautiful home to live in, rather than live under canvas, or clothes oneself in the fashion of one's choice and reach, rather than drabbery, create as fulfilling a story life for oneself and yes, one's nation, as one possibly can?

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