ALL FOR THE LOVE OF STORY
by Angela B. Chrysler
Originally published on: Oct 22, 2014
I am a firm believer that the human race developed speech all for the sake of story. Humans love story. We need it. We thrive on it. We revolve our lives around obtaining it. Every one of us seeks it out in some form or another if we don’t have it. The gamer seeks to participate in it. The gossiper must spread it. The reader must submerge themselves in it. The movie goer desires to see it. We love story. We can’t help ourselves. Long before we invented the wheel there were cave painters telling stories on cave walls. We invented fire then sat around caves talking about it. Eons before we could write story down, we told oral story. Ireland mastered this art form. There, educated men dedicated their lives to story and passed it on to the next apprentice. Our first bards came from there. We must have story.
I love M*A*S*H. More specifically, I love Pierce. Alan Alda is one of the most captivating storytellers of our time. He delivers every line with such theatrical enthrallment it never ceases to amaze me. When Hawkeye speaks, I must listen. No matter if it was a simple answer, or complaint, or protest he gave…every joke he tells commands your audience. Every word he mutters pulls you in and you listen. Hawkeye turned each word into a story — and I have to listen. Even now, I hear this article being read in his voice. Phenomenal actor. Phenomenal story teller. If you haven’t already, watch M*A*S*H.
But that brings me to one episode of M*A*S*H that compelled me to write this article. If you haven’t watched the 11 season series — which ran for so long, they had to shut it down because they simply ran out of story — the show is about the nurses and doctors in Korea who were sent to operate three miles from the front. When they weren’t operating, there was nothing to do. You could almost argue that the show explored how creative we get when given nothing to do. Books were rare…almost non-existent. But in one episode, season 6, episode 23 “The Light That Failed”, they get their hands on one book by mistake. One book. Two hundred people.
The episode begins with BJ (Hawkeye’s best friend) trying to read the book while Hawkeye begs to read over BJ’s shoulder. Annoyed by Hawkeye’s persistence, BJ rips out Chapter 1 and hands it to Hawkeye (don’t judge him). Within 24 hours, this book makes its way around the entire camp, one chapter at a time. They finally reach the last page of the book, which is missing…because they took the book apart. The book they are reading is a murder mystery: a classic “whodunit”. Needless to say, the unfinished book drives everyone crazy…so they call the author from Korea.
But to watch the excitement from these people — people who love books, people who are starved for story — suddenly get their hands on a book…it’s an episode that forces you to sit back and think how would we behave if we were deprived of story.
Try it sometime. Go one week. Don’t read. Don’t write (I know many of you just said, “Nope! Can’t do it!”). No TV. No gossip. Don’t talk about others. Don’t listen to stories about your Aunt Edna. Don’t follow up on celebrities. No tabloids, no books, no TV, no writing, no story. Cut yourself off. Cold turkey. No story. One week. How many of you are hopping at the thought of that?
Of course, we’ll go crazy, we’ll go mad, we’ll become hostile, and antsy. Mentally, we’ll fall apart…