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i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

Exposing the Morality of Stories

September 23, 2005

Imagine my glee when I sat down to read my ethics assignments and turned to a chapter entitled “Morality and Stories.” Rock on! The morality behind stories is certainly something I need to know if I plan on pursuing a career as a professional creative writer! Who knew I’d be getting such a kick out of my theology class readings this semester? (I didn’t, that’s for sure!)


“Then we must first of all, it seems, control the storytellers. Whatever noble story they compose we shall select, but a bad one we must reject. Then we shall persuade nurses and mothers to tell their children those we have selected and by those stories to fashion their minds far more than they can shape their bodies by handling them. The majority of the stories they now tell must be thrown out” (Plato, The Republic).

A passage in Character, Choices and Community reveals: “…some stories can show us our character flaws and biases, transform they way we see ourselves and the world, and – every now and then – start a revolution” (Connors & McCormick). A writer, a good one, has the power to change the world one mind at a time: “Real stories, great stories, have a power which goes far beyond any single lesson”.

We are a storied-people: we tell the stories of our beginnings in the literature we preserve, we tell of our values and our dreams for the future in the stories we allow our children to experience, and we reveal our truths in the stories of our collective lives. Connors and McCormick suggest: “… we can learn something about ourselves as a nation by attending to the stories we are forever telling and retelling on television, in our movie theaters, on the best-seller list, and in our popular songs”.

What does popular culture reveal about the greater society?

My fear of that answer caused me to shun cable television and carefully screen the information I absorb! No longer would I mindlessly take in the media stew; instead I would take the initiative to create myself and would carefully evaluate my sources in all contexts for I know a story is never just a story. A story always has a message to share:

”The real moral power of stories flows from the fact that they engage us as persons, and the best of them engage us so fully, so effectively, draw us so profoundly outside of ourselves and get so deep inside our imagination that it is simply not possible for us to be the same persons after such an encounter.”

I did not want Jerry Springer to be an author in the story of my life! Instead, I would write my own story, infused with other stories: stories recommended to me by friends, assigned to me by professors, stories told in the films I watched on the television. Traveling to Europe was a way for me to learn the stories of other nations through experience. Listening to the stories of those around me adds a greater depth to my own life.

An education, especially an expensive one, is a sort of promise: I promise to show up to my classes, pay attention pretty much most of the time, and not throw spitballs at my professors or classmates; in turn, the school of my choosing promises to fill my mind with knowledge that will aid me as I seek to create my own life by providing top of the line technology, excellent text books, and even better professors. Today I realized that I’m getting my money’s worth because the timing is all right: I’m at just the right stage in my life and at just the right place. That’s a damn good story.

Moira at 08:32 PM :: Comments (0) :: « :: »
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