Story Telling

Last year I was astonished to see how many blogs I frequent gave synopses and/or critiques of Game of Thrones. Then I noticed how many referred to the story lines of Breaking Bad and Walking Dead, with further comments about how the show’s writers were going with the story line. As if they were movie reviews. Or, god help us, book reviews. Surveys of viewer reactions. Social commentary.


Then I saw how some of my “friends” on Facebook said they were binging on certain series with streaming subscriptions. How my husband, once we got Apple TV and Netflix and HBO and shut down cable TV, watched every episode of Sopranos. I’m not innocent either—I binge-watched Carnivale because I could never it figure out when we sporadically rented episodes on DVD.


I binge-listen to audiobooks. I love the performance values, the writing, the stories. I have listened to every recorded episode of the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters; Gabriel Allon by Daniel Silva; Cork O’Conner by William Kent Krueger; The Camel Club, Will Robie, and King and Maxwell series by David Baldacci; Amelia Peabody by Elizabeth Peters; Lewis Trilogy, Enzo, and Chinese Thrillers by Peter May; Shardlake by C.J. Sansom; Tony Hill by Val McDermid; The Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell; and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve also subscribed to the streaming series of Outlander on STARZ.


So rather than waiting for the weekly episodes of I Love Lucy or Maude, among so many hundreds of others, we can now watch as stories develop in one continuous framework or listen to multiple book releases. Again and again.


Why is story telling important to us? I think it is very simple: story telling connects us to other human beings. We might, in the end, be described as no more than a few minerals floating in a bag of fluids, but that “bag” is a singular intellect, always seeking how to proceed in the world, how to put life in context to make sense of the past and to hope in the future. A story  not only entertains us, but gives us information and an emotional  connection outside our skin, beyond touch or voice. It’s who we are and who we want to be. We experience through another’s experience, which consolidates learning far more effectively than mere rote memorization of facts. It’s why story tellers have been revered or despised throughout human history from its beginnings. Why we spend so many hours around the “fires” of our screens every day and night, listening.


Ownership Rites

“Hillary Clinton is responsible for her husband cheating; if he received at home what he needed to satisfy his needs he would not slept with all those woman. She is fair game to be asked these questions.”


I saw this on Facebook. While a politician’s infidelity in this strange country besotted with Puritan hypocrisy is often an issue in elections, this is probably the first time the efficacy of a politician in meeting his or her partner’s sexual needs has become a criterion for executive leadership. I would love to see how a vetting committee would compose this question—or score it.


The original notion, of course, implies that a wife is obligated to meet her husband’s sexual needs. Does he have a similar obligation? Does marriage erase the ability of either partner to consent to the timing and the manner of engaging in sexual intercourse?


There was a time when married women were considered the property of their husbands. He had total control of her finances, her possessions, her body, and her children’s bodies. She had control of absolutely nothing. She was not an individual but a “thing” that could actually be “put by” or discarded for any number of infractions. We see this today in cultures where a husband is free to murder a daughter or wife for tarnishing his honor. Women who have been raped are considered adulterers, and stoned to death.


Ownership, of course, is the means by which patrimony and patriarchal entities thrive. A way, perhaps, of preserving a man’s genetic line. The need for sexual possession, in a herd or a house, is perhaps an instinct, although much of human evolution veers away from dependence on mere instinct in favor of reasoning. I am not a cow and you are not a bull, neither literally or figuratively.


In popular romance tales, the woman melts when he grabs her and says, “Mine! You are mine!” This, dear reader, is figurative. In actual love, she is his as much as he is her’s.


And of men’s needs, so a woman has needs—biological, emotional, intellectual. You do not die if you do not have sexual intercourse. That is a biological truth.


Bill Clinton committed adultery. That has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton’s adequacy as a presidential candidate. That topic is offered as a smokescreen to avoid intelligent civil discourse. And to further a mindset that relegates women to the bedroom and the kitchen.


A married woman has a right to say “no” to her husband. A married man has the right to say “no” to his wife.


Get sexual innuendo and gender bias out of the conversation.

Fishing for Ideas

Wendy the One-Eyed Wonder

I will be boarding my dogs, Mimi and Wendy, tomorrow for a week, while I have surgery and recover from it. Depending on how things go, I might be able to bring them home sooner. They are a large part of my life, and I don’t think they will be happy about it. Mimi follows me everywhere, though Wendy is more independent.

I keep seeing news articles about how various animals display “human” emotions. We all know now that elephants relate emotionally to every animal in the group, but we also see bonds formed among surprising pairs: a lion and a dog, a blind goat and a horse (or maybe the other way around), dogs who help to foster kittens, raccoons who play with birds. And yesterday a BBC article about humpback whales protecting seals and dolphins from orcas, and posing the question of whether this is altruism.

Once people wondered whether animals experienced any emotions at all, made any “plans” for actions, or dreamed. Anyone who has seen a puppy or kitten suckle while sleeping know they dream—my dogs wake me sometimes barking in their sleep. It isn’t all “instinct” programmed into them. They react emotionally to each other and to us.

Humans are so arrogant when it comes to putting ourselves at the pinnacle of all life on this planet. We share the preponderance of our genetic history with all life forms. Today’s New York Times has an article titled “From Fins into Hands” about the molecular genetic links that limbs and fins share in common. I have no doubt that whatever constitutes the molecular basis for emotions and consciousness is shared by far more than one species, just as the number of Homo species grows as more fossils are discovered.

The discovery of genes and the ability to compare them across time and species is one of the finest achievements of science ever—greater than our space exploration. This occurred in my lifetime, but I think young people, like my grandson, will probably find it difficult to imagine that this knowledge is relatively new. (Or that, when I was a kid, we never had a TV until I was about 10.) Perhaps as we discover more about our biological underpinnings, we can understand more about the common needs of all living things. And learn to befriend them.

Maudlin yes, but so what? I truly cannot imagine how, in 2016, anyone with a minimal education can deny the existence of evolution. The religionists who want it banished from school curricula are not just stupid, they are criminally stupid.