It’s not say what you want. It’s get what you want. If nobody wants anything,
stay home. — David Mamet
Of everything I’ve ever read by Mamet, his little dictum on the essence of drama is the thing that sticks.
Somebody has to want something.
If not, there’s no story. If not, stay home, put the book down, play Monopoly.
I’ve read too many tomes on writing that take 50,000 words to say the same thing, and not as well.
What is it about stories?
You can mess with them, add distractions, leave out details, leave it to the reader to connect the dots. But you can’t mess with somebody has to want something. When somebody wants something, I’m listening. So are you. It’s in the DNA.
Listening for what?
The meaning of life, of course. Whatever story you believe is what you’re giving your life to.
If I know your story, if I know what you really want, then I know what you’re giving your life to. And I want to know what gives your life meaning because maybe it will help me find the meaning in mine.
NICK IN THE MORNING
When Nick used to wake up in the morning, the first thing he’d do was come into our bed and nestle between us. He wanted that more than anything because that triad meant his whole life.
Now he doesn’t do it anymore. When Nick wakes up now, he goes downstairs and listens to his latest Redwall book. He’s got a new story. He’s a warrior now. It’s what he’s giving his life to.
I can enter into Nick’s new story, but only as a warrior.
“Dada, sword fight,” he says when I come down.
And the duel is on.
Try to hear the name
Ha Shem has for things.
There is something in the story,
Ha Shem taught Adam names.
We name everything according
to its outward form.
Ha Shem names it according
to what is inside.
Moses waved his stick; he thought it was a staff.
Inside its name was “dragonsmoke.”
We thought Lincoln meant “agitator against slavery.”
In the hereafter they call him “He who believes.”
No one knows her name
until her last breath goes out.
I always try to listen for story. It’s not easy. Usually what I’m listening to is silence. It takes me a lot of silence to come up with a story.
As with names in the Rumi poem, the real story isn’t always the obvious one. I’m never sure if the story I come up with is real or fake. Sometimes all I get is, “Did you floss today?”
Here are three stories I’ve been listening to lately. Maybe some are true:
1. This blog
What’s the story here? Someone trying to be a better dad, a better parent. Not by buying the best diapers, but by clarifying his actions.
2. Occupy Wall Street
The thing that really interests me here is that a good part of the struggle seems to be over narrative. The initial criticism of Occupy Wall Street, for example, was a literary one:
“They have no program. We don’t know what they want.”
According to these critics, Occupy failed its creative writing class. While Occupy bided its time, the opponents of Occupy came up with a story of their own. That story was, “Those bums are a public nuisance. Get them out of the park.”
That was good enough for a scene, but not for a whole play. It turned out Occupy was only in its first act.
3. Jung and God
Jung’s father was a preacher, and Jung was raised with a lot of brimstone. As a result, he was terrified of God.
When Jung went into the American southwest, he watched a Navajo group dancing before sunrise.
“What are you doing?” said Jung.
“We’re dancing to help God bring the sun up,” they said.
“Suppose you didn’t dance,” said Jung. “Would the sun not come up?”
“Why would we do that?” The chief said. “We have a partnership to honor. We’re in partnership with God.”
This was new to Jung. This was one hell of a story.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
Bill Moyers on How Wall Street Occupied America. Here’s someone who wants something.
Painting credit: Detail from “Destruction of Pharaoh’s Army” by Philip James de Loutherbourg.
What are you giving your life to? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
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