In Desperate Narrative Straits

The following are quotations from a fascinating article I read some years ago. It seems more important now than ever. I no longer hear references to our “post-modern” age because, I would guess, we’ve grown tired of having nothing to say about ourselves except that we’re not what we used to be, which is all “post-modern” means. We’re are in a prolonged period of cultural transition which I have long considered to be as least as earth-shaking as the Renaissance.We do not know what will emerge but it will obviously be a slow process. It started with World War II and no end is yet in sight.

Nystrom, Christine, “The Crisis of Narrative,” Translation Review, # 29, 1989.
✶ “From the dawn of speech itself, no family, group, or nation, no human alone or in tribes, has survived without integrating experience into a coherent and life-sustaining tale.”
✶ “My reading of history and of our time tells me that we are in desperate narrative straits.”
✶  “I have come across two facts about information and life so incontrovertible, so universally observed, that I will call them laws.  The first is that no species can survive with inadequate information about its world.  And the second is that no species can survive with too much information about its world.”
✶ Story is our way of regulating information. “A tale is a way of constructing continuities, of explaining oneself to oneself.”
✶ “We are living now in a world that technology has made too small for tribal tales.”
✶ “To the question, ‘Where did we come from?’ science answers, ‘An accident.’  To the question, ‘How will it end” technology answers, ‘Probably by accident.’  To the question, ‘How should we live between accidents?’ capitalism answers, ‘Amuse yourselves.  Consume.’  And to the question, ‘To what end?’ technopoly answers, ‘To divert yourselves from noticing that life in technopoly has no other end.’  But people are beginning to notice anyway, and more and more are finding the accidental life not worth living.”
✶  “We need a tale that goes beyond chanting of here and now and tribal triumphs and despairs, a tale that sings of the future of our species and ennobles the long and painful journey from the savannas of our past.”
✶  “Either our age will be called, in the future, the Age of Narrative, or it will need no name.  For there will be no one looking back to tell our tale.”


About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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