Unifying narratives

This wasp-like creature exploring a primitive bark-stripped porch rail in early-morning light.seems to feel every contour. It flies an inch above the wood surface occasionally, and then continues its perambulations. It disappears into a hole within an indentation for a minute, re-emerges, skitters outside the hole, and finally re-enters.

I’m not interested in the science of what I’m observing. I’m considering it a narrative, a short story of sorts. A fable.

We seem to be increasing the number of narratives we can carry within us. Often my observations about gun violence, political conspiracies, and actions within intimate relationships get edited away, as though their presence obfuscates whatever subject I’ve announced at the start of a piece.


The multiple narratives we harbor is my subject.

In the library, patrons take out the maximum number of DVDs they’re allowed, ten per day. They gravitate towards genres — horror, action/adventure, comedy — with a third for kids, if they have kids. This augments the series they watch on mainstream, cable and streaming television. The video games they play. The stories they read on social media, or hear from others. Maybe the news, too.

There’s a lot of variety.

How do older tools survive an increase in complexity? I’m thinking of the cars we drive, the guns many of us own, the democracy we’ve been entrusted.

I watch my dog watching the wasp-like creature as it re-enters its home. She stares at the hole in the porch rail, and then turns towards where she’s heard rustling in the underbrush. Her attention shifts, totally.

It’s a dog’s life, beautiful in its simplicity.

We’ve entered an age where we now need a narrative of narratives, an eye towards the ways in which we can move forward together into a singular reality, a re-unified future. A reckoning with the stories we’re creating, if that’s still possible.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.