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THE WORST STORY

February 8th, 2021

 

It’s always a bit of a buzzkill when someone is asked about their vacation and the next ten minutes are filled with the excruciating minutea of some travel detail that didn’t go according to plan.  This happens with astonishing regularity, and as disappointing as it is, it’s entirely understandable, because, the worst story you can tell is a happy one.

 

It takes only the most cursory tour of film, literature  and all manner of storytelling to realize that a good story depends on a juicy conflict.  Otherwise, the underdog has nothing to rise up against, the hero has no adventure, and nothing is at stake because nothing threatens.  

 

This is, unfortunately, a somewhat modern mutation of story.  Before the rise of marketing and advertising, the blissful and happy experiences of life were replete within poetry and they certainly made their appearances in story.  But the business of sales and the propagandistic adverts to drive such sales appropriated happiness en masse.  That appropriation has occurred again, with FOMO as epitomized with Instagram.  Happiness, still infused with the poison of advertising now goads us to chase it as it seems to appear in the lives of others, who we follow.

 

There is little to no cultural instruction about how to simply rest, exist and be a peace with that circumstance.  Certainly there powerful tools that are assembling.  The spread of meditation practice within the west is certainly encouraging, and Tinkered Thinking will soon release a meditation app.  But for the most part, Western culture seems to have been geared towards too much of an atomized utility to see the diffuse benefits of something like meditation.

 

In light of our bad cultural habits, this does not mean they can’t change.  Though we seem hardwired to think that a story must have some miserable kernel of conflict at it’s core, we can rather wonder if it’s possible to instead speak a bit lyrically about something that was particularly wonderful.  Can you describe that exquisite shade of blue without sounding trite?  Can you convey the awe you felt?  The taste and the feel of air?

 

There are so many details on offer to talk about that we pass up by default in order to pollute someone else’s curiosity with a description of the tired, overworked, and incidentally rude ticket agent who couldn’t accommodate the redirect when plans didn’t work out.


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Podcast Ep. 1030: The Worst Story

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