Fiction and Truth

 

So over the past couple of weeks I have been reading some fiction, which is something I rarely do, and I have to say that I am really enjoying it. Most of my reading has been comprised of theological, spiritual, and historical works, with some sociology and biography in the mix. But what intrigues me about fiction is its ability to capture truths that are not as easy to translate in nonfiction. I love music, film, and most visual arts, and the thing that draws me to each of them is the ability of the medium to reveal something very true and deeply profound about myself, others, the human experience overall, and God.

I read Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and I am moved by how far and for how long this man was willing to go to capture a fish, and I feel the anguish he feels as his fish deteriorates in the ocean upon his return to Havana. As I read through My Name is Asher Lev, I realize that at times I have hidden my artistic creativity because I am scared that it might in fact be something that doesn’t really matter. As I view the world through Scout’s eyes in To Kill a Mockingbird, I return to that sense of mystery and awe that is abundant in every child, and in studying the character of Atticus Finch I remember that to do the right thing can cost very much.

I forgot how important story is, not just to fiction, but also to nonfiction, to all of us in our reality.

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One response to “Fiction and Truth

  1. Jared

    I remember when I was a senior in high school and I started reading a lot of fiction. After having been exposed to philosophy through my experience as a debater, I realized that Kant, Locke, etc. were taking understanding out of its narrative context. I liked figuring things out so much more when I was reading a novel or short story than when I was reading a long dull essay that tried to fit the universe into a vase for me to look at and smell but not climb in.

    As I became interested in reading the Bible and biblical theology I noticed the same thing. People writing theology tended to like Paul and James more than Mark and Luke. Martin Luther even says that the former are superior to the latter in his introduction to the commentary he wrote on Peter and Jude.

    As I read more recent academic theologians (Wright, Hays, etc.) I saw that they were relying heavily on narratology. These men were spending much of their time and many of their words exploring how the narratives are the foundation of biblical studies, and the life of Jesus’ followers. To think that Jesus was a theologian in his own right and that Paul was talking within the context of his (Jesus’) story was an entirely novel concept to me.

    In his novel Watership Down, Richard Adams uses the lives of a community of rabbits to exemplify what story formed communities look like. They don’t tell stories so that, at the end, they can look around the group and tell everyone, “The moral of the story is…” Quite the contrary. We see these rabbits living out their story passionately and heroically. They face their enemies because their predecessors faced theirs.

    There are plenty of people telling us how important stories are to cultural development (Kenneth Bailey is one the best examples) through essays and lectures and those lectures are like huge fields waiting for our poor western minds to come and glean from their edges. But the task after the gleaning is to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Are the dominant representations of narrative in our culture encouraging and shaping us into humans? I don’t think so. I see the majority of TV, movies and radio attempting to keep me on the couch long enough to see commercials. They are meant solely to pass time between advertisements. I don’t have a problem with commerce per se. But there is almost nothing in the barrage of sounds and images around us that is strong enough to encourage anything truly human. There is, in my opinion, just a reshaping of history to reify the now. And the reification will continue as long as is necessary. I know that’s vague, but this isn’t my blog. I think I’ll have to into more detail there.

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