• John Diamond-Nigh

Tall tales but true

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

Sassy chimney, hard-partying chairs, horny headboard–all the makings of a hedonistic hoe-down. In fact, all the makings of an Andy Warhol #fairy tale, composed for, and circulated among friends.

Funny we call them #tall tales when they go so deep.

My daughter asked me recently for updated drawings of Silyak and Samovar, two mice in a long-running fairy tale that daddy made up years ago. Silyak and Samovar visited the pyramids, they went to mass at Notre Dame, went back in time to the Trojan Horse. Samovar was a dandy with all the trappings of a Paris flâneur. Silyak was an un-mousey Simone de Beauvoir with a ribbon on her tail. My daughter is thinking of an S&S tattoo. May or may not happen, but I was deeply touched to think that these two mice still meant that much to her.

A #story-teller travels with a bicycle pump. As needed, a cigarette-smoking uncle is inflated into a horny headboard or a polemical nostalgia into two adventurous mice. Carl #Jung would say that in fact the #patterns of our stories, like a dressmaker making a thousand dresses from one set of patterns, are down in the basement of our psyche, and that everyday occurrences–no surprise–usually fit quite easily into those patterns, maybe with a little snipping or inflation.

I like to tell #stories–maybe it’s those preacher genes. So I think quite a lot about the current state of storytelling and its relationship to #truth and the extent to which, right now, we are willing to welcome any #lie ‘as truth’ if it suits us to do so, and conversely how often we contort mythical or metaphorical truth into some ‘literal’ transposition–a lie–which is even worse.

Where does that leave storytelling? Where does that leave Jung’s deeply renewing notion of symbols and flavors and urgencies that manifest themselves as #dreams or #myths or the stories we tell. A: what happens when we make them too literal? B: what happens when we mess around with factual truth just to satisfy our own personal, aesthetic or political purposes?

The consequence of this double bind, some have suggested, has been to paralyze #mythology at a point when we need it most. Myth has to renew itself, as Jung pointed out, with fresh stories, fresh gods. When it no longer does so, we lose touch with the deep ambiguity of life, and the world gets painfully, evangelistically simplistic.

On one hand we need an honorable sense of ‘truth’; on the other, an equal appreciation for the profound, often unstable, waters of metaphor. But when both are weak, what can anyone do? Here I’ll plug the Humanities as one of our most essential pursuits. But, alas, we’re far from the Humanities right now. Language teachers get ten dollars an hour; stockbrokers a thousand. Hey, capitalism, I like you but get your priorities right.

In stories, we all can be a little less ‘right’. Lynne and I tell each other stories each week, lots of them, bubbling off the tops of our heads: they center us like prayer does for our spiritual friends. It is a center that roots into something #mysterious and deep, but that at the same time grows tall with shadows and murmurs and leaves–a sunflower hinting at some oblique truth.

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