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QUINTESSENCE

Point of View

What is the story? (Storm King Art Center, New York)
I should be content
to look at a mountain
for what it is
and not as a comment
on my life.
- David Ignatow

The storyteller doll in Native American Pueblo tradition is generally depicted with many clamoring children on her lap or skirt hem; and the stories are those of the people, their history inhabiting the land. In every story the children are either listening to the adventure, or at the very center of it. I know when I was a child I was excited when the story was about me, but always learned something important from the story when it was not. When we listen to a narrative do we learn best by example?

The Japanese poet Basho, born in the outskirts of Kyoto in 1644 once commented, "The trouble with most poetry is that it is either subjective or objective." Yes. And isn't this the truth of life? It is either happening TO us, in objective, factual chronology, or happening WITHIN us, in ice flow chunks of emotional epiphany and dark undercurrents of thought. Which is the better truth? The bigger truth? Or perhaps the more meaningful question is, Which of these - the objective or the subjective - is the more useful truth?

I don't have a ready answer. Perhaps "usefulness" is situational. Are you about to be eaten by a lion? The location of the nearest tree is objectively more useful than your sudden blinding fear. Are you thinking of cliff diving to impress your sweetheart? That twist in your gut and fear of heights might be more significant than the height of the dive. Our lives have multiple points of view. I believe synthesis is best when we can achieve it - combine the intelligences of our objective and subjective learning. But when we can't, perhaps its best to let a mountain be a mountain. Are we listening to a story or is the story happening within us?

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