The story IV … examining plot

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© Sarah Klockars-Clauser for openphoto.netAnd on we go in our search for our author. Leaving behind a cast of characters that only helped to confuse and frustrate, we now turn to the plot of our story. When we ask the deep questions of the soul, the first seems to be “Why am I here?” However, generally failing to find an adequate answer, we turn to more shortsighted questions that would seem to be easier to answer such as “What should we do?” This is the essence of plot. What is going on and how we should act and react to what is going on around us. Understanding our plot would also lead us to discern the end of our story, which opens up all kinds of truths about who we are, what we are doing here, what is our role, and who really are the main characters. Understanding our plot is surely the key to understanding our story and finding our author.

So we look at what is going on in our lives. Surely there is good and bad. All stories have bad moments, so this is nothing to worry about. All lives begin positively. That miraculous moment of birth when all lives are a blank page and all epic stories of romance and heroism are still possible. For some that moment is cut short – sometimes before the moment of birth itself. Complications, birth defects, or unspeakable tragedy too often transform joy to despair. But this experience is the same throughout our lives. One moment elation, the next catastrophe. Perhaps it is not wise to look at individual lives and try to interpret our story. Perhaps we must look at the bigger stories, the stories of nations and peoples.

Unfortunately, throughout history we see a similar pattern. Has there been a time that the world has not been at war? Times where devastating natural disasters have not erased whole groups of peoples from the earth? No. battleHowever, there is a great savior – if you would believe some – called technology. Technology seems to hold great promise to bring people together, to erase differences, to solve many of our woes. But, alas, history would beg to differ. From the beginning, technology has promised to simplify, revolutionize, and eliminate human suffering. From wheels to hunting and gardening tools, technology has been used for good as well as for evil. But still the history of nations and peoples has plodded on unchanged. One group dominates for a time and then gets replaced by another. Nations led by cruel and vicious dictators are displaced by more benevolent rulers who in turn are overthrown by even worse regimes. The seemingly random cycle continues unabated. Thus the plot, so promising in concept, fails to inform us about much and fails to lead us to our author.

But all stories have a setting. Perhaps this could provide a clue or lead us down a fruitful path. After all, the setting is where the story takes place. The setting helps set the mood of the story and introduces constraints on the characters. Truthfully, would texting in a medieval setting make sense? Nope. Wrong setting. So what is the setting of our story? It appears to be Earth in the 21st century. But maybe, like Neo in the Matrix or the Pevensies in the Chronicle of Narnia, we will find our story existing in another setting altogether. That could change everything.

But we are trying to understand our story, so we will assume our setting is what we can actually see and hear. Trying to reason otherwise would put us in a state of pure conjecture. So we study our setting; while it changes over time, it also remains the same. But it does give up some secrets about our author. What do we learn by looking at our world? First, that the world is a wild and dangerous place. Regardless of our sophistication, intelligence, and technology we can not even begin to be able to modify the winds and storms of nature. And lets face it, being left alone in the wild without traces of modern conveniences is daunting for even the most adventurous among us. We are likely not up to the challenge.

universeBut then second, what about the immensity and size of our environment? The world in which we live seems large to us, yet is but a pale blue dot in the sea of asteroids, planets, stars, nebula, and galaxies. Some even theorize multiple universes! What could be the reason for such enormity? Is our author really so large as to require all this to tell our story? As the known universe leaves us speechless, so its part in our story leaves us with insufficient imagination to even begin to envision its  purpose.

So once again we are baffled. The plot is seemingly random, littered with both triumph and tragedy. And our setting, while leaving clues, is so wild and dangerous and so grotesquely over sized that we are left to wonder even more: what is going on here?

Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps trying to understand the story can provide no clues about the author and can certainly not lead us to the creator of our story. Perhaps.

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