Saturday, May 18, 2013

Telling the Terrible Tale

Recently a colleague exasperatedly asked me why my blog covered such dreadful things all the time.

Well, forn spǫll fira means the ancient story of man. If it had been the forn gods spǫll, that is the ancient story of God, then it might be different. Men make a mess of things in ways that God does not. Men generally have not and do not treat their fellow mortals in a godly fashion. History reflects that. To contrast the way of God and the way of man, we actually have to look at both and see the differences; they are not hard to miss.

The fact that we repeat the same mistakes again and again show that we clearly have not learned from the past. One illustration of that is Paul Simon celebrating in not just one but two songs his ignorance. "Don't know much about history," he sang in one. "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all," he sand in the other. Granted Paul Simon is a bit dated, he was singing these things about the time the parents of today's children were born. Studies show that today's students are actually studying considerably less than they were when Paul Simon extolled the virtues of knowing nothing. History repeats itself, depressingly so.

But telling the ancient tale of man is actually telling a story. The narrator's art, or lack thereof, can make some difference, but there is the actual story itself. A first rate storyteller, J. R. R. Tolkien, put it this way:
Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway. (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, chapter 3.)
What makes a story good to listen to and good to live in are usually not the same things.