To Breathe a Life of Narrative

Is it in our human nature to create stories? I understand that I am but a measly cross-section of a race which has existed for thousands of years and very well may continue for thousands more; however, seeing as I, too, enjoy flaunting my bipedalism, boasting the opposability of my thumbs, and exercising the incredible miracle of speech, I will claim the right to speak on this subject. Perhaps I will not speak infallibly, but speak I shall.

For years, thoughts similar to those addressed in Hayden White’s “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality” have entered and slipped away from my mind before I had the chance to recognize them as anything more than transient notions. What he has done in his explication, is give substance to the very process of which he speaks; for language is the stuff of stories.

As a linguistics major, language has always offered me a certain fascination. It can both expound and confound, say nothing and everything in a synchronized iteration. It can tell a story of a thousand possibilities in a single string of words. But such complexity only exists through inference; language, that aspect of our existence that perhaps separates us most distinctly from other species, is a tool, and we the storytellers. White stated that it was natural for us to want to fill in informational gaps, to use narrative as a contextual mesh with which to justify the lack of detail.

When something seems out of the ordinary, we ask why and we ask how. These simple questions are seeds to future narrative. If no one else is around to narrate the story we need, we postulate one of our own conjuring with causes, reactions and outcomes to rationalize the anomaly. Why should we be so compelled?

Each of us has their own story to carve into the plot of Time with each breath, each step, each choice we make. We, the protagonists, like in the best of stories, are flawed, and although we will face many trials over the course of our unwritten pages, until we have seen the closing of the book’s cover, we can claim no resolution.
In my experience, completion is a gift endowed with the essence of certainty. For this, chronicles – those stories of which the endings are yet to be determined – are both infuriating and captivating. There coexists in me, and I presume in countless others, a desire to both know an outcome and to create it. To do so, we pay with pages from our own stories.

If we shall not yet know what endings our own stories will take, can we not take comfort in the completion of other narratives? We tell stories of intrigue, tragedy and joy; not all endings are favourable or gratifying, but they are final.

Perhaps this is why completion sings to us; it says “I am done with you now. Take what you need from me and start working on your next chapter.”

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