the blue fish project

Monday, December 08, 2014

So much of the story is in the telling

Forbes reviews the new Exodus film (HT: Andrew Wilson)
"Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings (trailer) is a terrible film. It is a badly acted and badly written melodrama that takes what should be a passionate and emotionally wrenching story and drains it of all life and all dramatic interest. It hits all the major points, like checking off boxes on a list, yet tells its tale at an arms-length reserve with paper-thin characters. It is arguably a film intended for adults, with violence that makes a mockery of its PG-13 rating, yet it has far less nuance, emotional impact, and moral shading than DreamWorks Animation’s PG-rated and seemingly kid-targeted The Prince of Egypt."
And a recent study shows...
Fiction readers make great friends as they tend to be more aware of others' emotions...Literary fiction enhanced participants' empathy because they had to work harder at fleshing out the characters. The process of trying to understand what those characters are feelings and the motives behind them is the same in our relationships with other people.
Five thoughts:

1. Good stories are hard to tell.

2. It's easy to see what a good story lacks than what a good story should contain. I'm particularly struck however by the observations about well developed characters and the problem of telling a story at arms length.

3.  As a lover of fiction - who rejected it altogether for a couple of bleak and unimaginative years before University, and who is enjoying introducing his five year old to good fiction I'm encouraged at the wide ranging benefits to his imagination and character that this might bring.

4.  I'm also helped by the thought that there is correlation between social skills and reading great literature. As someone who doesn't exactly have outstanding interpersonal skills, it's good to know that the pages of a good book can help rather than hinder me in my journey... as long as I don't spend all my time in a book.

5.. As a preacher, I realise it'd be easy for good preaching of Exodus, for example, to fail in the same way this film apparently does. I've not seen the film so I'm merely reflecting on the review rather than the film. Even the best stories can be killed by the way they're understood and told.

Pic: Brioso (Creative Commons)

Friday, November 28, 2014

We all have myths

We believe myths about the origin of the world, about what's wrong with the world, about what can fix that, about where the world is going.

Literary scholar CS Lewis noted that we all have stories to explain how we see the world. We all have myths. The questions that matter are whether your myth gives a good account of life, and whether your myth is a true account of life.

Lewis and his friend Tolkein considered the possibility of a True Myth, the Christ story.

For me, coming to the opening chapters of Genesis is a great opportunity for mythunderstanding. To think in terms of story. I want to avoid getting into a faith vs. science debate especially when that leaves both a cheapened view of science and of the world... derived in the context of chapters of literature that promote science and give the richest possible understanding of this world.

Take an example.

The story of the fall in Genesis 3 is a story that makes emotional sense of our sense of broken intimacy, of our desire to be known and our disposition towards hiding from one another. This is how we experience life and we sense it's not meant to be that way. This myth says that this same brokenness impacts every one in every generation, in every culture, a fracture running through us at the very deepest level. It doesn't make relationship impossible but it does to some level interupt the yearning to be safe with someone else.

We might object to this myth. We might note the presence of an elephant in the room: a talking serpent! Surely that breaks the myth and renders it  nothing more than a fanciful Tinga Tinga Tale. Blaming the serpent isn't a new issue for this story.

Perhaps, however, the real elephant is that this story makes us culpable. It puts the heart of the human problem in the heart of the human being. It says our betrayal of the Lord Christ is what fractured relationship and bred alienation. That's not an easy story for any of us to bear.

It's ok to be honest that the issue is at least as much that we don't want to believe the story as that we find some aspect implausible. That kind of honesty would be refreshing and promotes open discussion. Many of the stories we believe have plausibility challenges in different ways. I'm yet to see a fish grow legs. Plausibility rather depends on your overarching myth. What is allowed to make sense - the big story and the smaller stories cycle back and forth to create plausibility structures.

Those telling stories to others need to know that we have a tendency to prefer stories that scratch our itches and that changing our story has consequences and costs, losses as well as gains. Those telling stories should tread carefully. Stories capture the heart, the imagination... and so shape lifes. Stories are powerful, and perhaps, amongst other things, this is a world made for stories.

Image: Silvia Sala

Monday, October 06, 2014

The 50p challenge reveals an ugly posture

I wrote a reflection on the implications of Sainsbury's recent poster gaff at Think Theology: An Ugly Posture.

Photo by Chris Dodd.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

New: Grace Church Exeter

I've recently joined the staff team at Grace Church Exeter. We're learning to explore, experience and express the goodness of God in our city.

My role is as Communications, Ministries & Training Coordinator. This occupies me with a great mix of things I love to do with communicating, producing resources, teaching and training people to equip them for life in our city.

You can have a look around our new website and get a feel for what we're up to in our city.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

2003-2014: An end, and a new beginning...

I started this blog when I joined the UCCF staff team in September 2003. Eleven years and more than 3300 blog posts later... I'm still doing both. 

However, my time with UCCF is soon to end. I'm moving on to a new role on the staff team of our church in Exeter as Communications, Ministries and Training Coordinator. A new season with new rhythms of life. I'm looking forward to new opportunities and a newly localised life (after seven years of itinerant ministry across the South West) as I dig into living in our city, raising my family and building our church.

I'm not sure where, if at all, this blog fits within that new shape. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014