So an English man and an Indian are sitting in a bar.
They were old enough to feel old verities calcify and enfeeble in their veins, old enough to cap and trade their vices, their happy hours. They deplored a moment the miserly, narrow lapels and trousers about the bar, the fashion calculated to save material costs around them. The badly built bling of fiscal austerity.
One says to the other
“I’m not sure this is the conversation we should be having but I will say I am a man who finds all relationship burdensome. This makes it difficult for those who love me.”
“I read today of an organisation that espouses the development of”radical empathy” through storytelling.
Oddly, I’ve grown tired of people on the radio talking about story telling, how important it is to tell one’s personal story from one’s particular, subjective point of view. On literary radio shows it seems an obligatory introductory note to strike (for interviewed and interviewer alike) before a writer holds forth on a recent brave memoir or gritty fiction. “For our stories make us what we are”, the radio guests and hosts intone “and where our stories overlap we find our common humanity.
I don’t disagree, who could dare, but the preamble gets boring, the prattle gets predictable, i flick off the sad, but ultimately edifying tale. Even if there is redemption The intro, unctuous with discovery is too often more telling than the story told. It indicates a need to sanctify or justify storytelling, it has an off-putting timorous, coy quality. And also an inflated quality.
Maybe there is more to art-product making than empathy manufacture. Perhaps there is more to literature, to writing, to art, to empathy ,to conversation, to reality, than an anthology of subjective diary pieces with overlapping, similar, passages redlined indicating the commonly human. There may be more to it than a reductionist mapping of a therapeutic, socially hygienic empathy built of mirrors and similarities. Perhaps there is a difference between creating our own stories, and creating our own realities.
There are myths and then there are popular misconceptions. Some people apparently got their narratives overlapping enough to shoot up a bourgeoisie bar in Paris. Things common to all humans are not more human than rare qualities, and are not innately edifying, or even difficult to identify.”
“I am atired of the word “iconic” as used to describe the soup can.”
“i am tired of the words “At the end of the day” preceding some banal pragmatic observation about profit.”
And the other guy says back “I appreciate your narrative”. It speaks to my own sense of language being colonised by its theorists. I’ll try to be mindful of your sensitivities while framing my commentary..”
The other guy says ” Please Don’t frame it. It’s no oil painting. Please .”
“Let me just unpack this.”