Saturday essay Stories are criticized for distancing reality, but perhaps art can show reality

The stories are about something much more subtle and personal than just power and influence, writes Jussi Ahlroth.

Everyone is his story.

Storytelling is not just the prerogative of writers and other imaginative creators. On the contrary, stories seem to be told especially by those who have something to sell. The stories trade everything from books to candies, from dailies to parties.

The reason is clear. The stories work. If things are just reported coolly, it won’t be very much of a moment. But when there is experience and emotion involved and events are put in an exciting order, we listen. The stories make you impressed, experience great emotions and empathy. But they also color observations and misinterpret things and people. The story can be misleading – and we often want it.

Stories are a form of influence and the exercise of power and therefore need to be viewed critically. The dangers of the report (Counterweight, 2020) is a collection of articles from a research project of the same name that guides you to be careful with the stories. Things are easily hidden when stories are made about them or it is claimed that those who disagree just weave stories. It would be better to just go for it.

But can we just “go for the real thing” behind the stories? The role of stories as a tool for social influence and a layer that obscures public debate is an important issue.

However, the storytelling goes deeper. The stories are about something much more subtle and personal than just power and influence. It’s about time and memory, how we experience and perceive time and ourselves in time. The model of the story is like an unspoken floor plan of how we say things to others and, most importantly, also quietly in the mind to ourselves, sometimes aloud, in the dark, even secretly from ourselves.

Literary investigator Teemu Ikonen has compiled ten years of reflections on literature into a wastefully insightful collection of essays The time of literature (Teos, 2020). Among other things, Ikonen thinks about how misunderstood our general understanding of the relationship between time and stories is.

Stories are not ways to perceive time. The phenomenon called time is just a story-shaped outline of what happened, the present moments that no longer exist. In connection with modernity, Ikonen asks, “how time could be thought of other than as rhetorical and narrative perceptions of where we have come from now and how, by structuring time into a meaningful development cost”.

Because the experience of time is narrative, the stories are so deep that it’s hard to go into the matter behind the stories. The dangers of the report The book also states: “Stories are a key tool in human consciousness and human communication that allows us to structure our experiences and the temporal change in the reality we perceive.”

The relationship between life and the stories about it is described in the book as an egg and chicken situation.

The idea is a little dizzy. Images of stories deep within me that belong to all my experience are drawn to my mind. Would they be just frames, lines between points that change and change and that seem to float on or inside a previously existing experiential mass? Or are the stories in themselves the mass of experience, and we have no access to what has been before the story? In this context, it is indeed difficult to talk about time before and after.

If all experience involves storytelling, is there anything that goes beyond the stories?

This moment.

This moment is not a story about something. It’s just himself, in the moment. So in that previous one, but here again. Well, now that went too.

So, how would you reach it and especially how would you tell about it? I guess we all want to reach those moments, those rare moments that have it all. Those who always surprise stand out at the same time as knife-sharp and hazy soft from the medium-strong interior of life.

Almost all the spiritual traditions of the world speak of them, in their own names. Many writers try to reach them in their works and many also report losing them. About how life is wasted when you just look at it from the side, wait for the next moment, or remember the previous one.

This is the danger of our own ordinary storytelling, our mediocre narrative. We want those moments maybe too much. Life, it’s like an endless Christmas Eve that is expected and prepared, and when it finally happens, we run around it to make it go as well as possible until it’s over and just memories.

Christmas Eve never really comes unless you let go of the personal story that is built about Christmas. We can end up living our whole lives the same way.

Before stories are a tool to mislead others, we use them to mislead ourselves. Stories are tools of self-justification and methods of self-deception. The stories are repeated until they feel real, and over time they ossify into beliefs, until little by little, as our movements shape the paths of the sphere that arises from the bones, they become the world we live for.

We live in a story that is only momentarily interrupted by reality.

Will it goes without saying that literature is much more than storytelling. There is literature that goes beyond stories. Literature that dives somewhere in our minds among the floating story lines connecting the dots. Literature that permeates the narrative structure of time and opens the present in a new way, over and over again.

Teemu Ikonen reflects on his essay Literature and life Virginia Woolfin way to write these moments In the waves. They are “counterbalances to the flow of time and narrativeization”. Moments that are more permanent than our lives, moments where “something corrodes through”. Even describing them for moments is a structure that is something other than their experience. They are “white spaces that separate the moment from one another” and somehow impossible to reach. They are weird, but they are more real than the stories. Above all, they have a connection with other people.

Paradoxically, it is literature that can offer moments without a story. Art is an opportunity to experience moments where our story breaks and the moment shows up.

Colleague Pekka Torvinen wrote in October In his Saturday essay, how in the basic experience of modern man “something is lost, and towards it is fetched” and how Marcel Proustin in the text and in old buildings its lost connection can be experienced, momentarily.

I think this is the same thing.

The only thing we can really lose is the presence of a moment. That’s what we lose, always. However, this disappearance is probably not a particularly modern matter. It’s an old, even older experience. Perhaps modern is precisely determined by the fact that this is thought to be a particularly modern experience. I guess it used to be that the old answers were no longer valid for us.

Art is the last, perhaps last, permissible answer we accept without distance, irony, and cynicism. Stories can move away from reality, but literature can show reality. In this world of stories, the connection arises as a fracture, a break in our story. Art is an opportunity for everyone to break the story that they believe they are.


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