Skip to main content

Why is Narrative the Best?: Where Assassin's Creed is on the same level as the Moon Landing

While volunteering at the Frances Willard archives this past Saturday (natch), I found myself pausing MULTIPLE TIMES in the middle of my research on a Kalamazoo WCTU leader because I was irresistibly compelled to stop and have brief, intense discussions with the head archivist about Frances Willard minutiae.

"What years was she in Europe?...ohh, do you remember the ring incident?...That was in Berlin? Well, that makes sense."

When we finally realized we needed to maybe get actual work done, the archivist (Janet) explained the fascination with Willard by pointing out the human need to briefly inhabit other people's lives. I'm calling it a need because it's so widespread. We satisfy it through movies, television, BOOKS, theatre, video games, and puppet shows. And sometimes through reading a ridiculous amount about a woman who was, dare I say, one of the greatest lady figures of the 19th century yes I do dare say.

The history of humans on this planet shows us that we time and time again try to transcend limitations. "Oh, the moon? You think we can't stomp all over that with our giant moonboots? Well THINK AGAIN." "That sounds impossible, so I guess give up thinking about it" is completely foreign to humanity. There are isolated cases of people being dicks and saying it, but for the overall MASS of humanity? No, we keep working at the impossible until we do it.

You get one fully realized experience in life: your own. And that's what you're stuck with. EXCEPT FOR STORIES. Real stories, fake stories, they all let you transcend your own experience and live in someone else's head. Thoughts you would never have, you get to have and then expand upon because of this chance to be in someone else's head. One of the best things about Frances Willard is she left journals that start when she was 15, and end at age 57. It's a thorough immersion in someone else's life (she died at 58).

There has to be a reason humans respond so strongly to narrative. And I refuse to put it down to something as stupidly reductive as escapism. People who dismiss fiction or history in favor of cold, hard science (yeah, I said it) ignore the need to have as much experience in life as possible, or to understand some of the other 7 billion people on this planet a little better before you die. You are not "wasting your life" by learning about others. You're growing your own experience.


Popular posts from this blog

Harry Potter 2013 Readalong Signup Post of Amazingness and Jollity

Okay, people. Here it is. Where you sign up to read the entire Harry Potter series (or to reminisce fondly), starting January 2013, assuming we all survive the Mayan apocalypse. I don't think I'm even going to get to Tina and Bette's reunion on The L Word until after Christmas, so here's hopin'.

You guys know how this works. Sign up if you want to. If you're new to the blog, know that we are mostly not going to take this seriously. And when we do take it seriously, it's going to be all Monty Python quotes when we disagree on something like the other person's opinion on Draco Malfoy. So be prepared for your parents being likened to hamsters.

If you want to write lengthy, heartfelt essays, that is SWELL. But this is maybe not the readalong for you. It's gonna be more posts with this sort of thing:

We're starting Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone January 4th. Posts will be on Fridays. The first post will be some sort of hilarious/awesome que…

How to Build a Girl Introductory Post, which is full of wonderful things you probably want to read

Acclaimed (in England mostly) lady Caitlin Moran has a novel coming out. A NOVEL. Where before she has primarily stuck to essays. Curious as we obviously were about this, I and a group of bloggers are having a READALONG of said novel, probably rife with spoilers (maybe they don't really matter for this book, though, so you should totally still read my posts). This is all hosted/cared for/lovingly nursed to health by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) because she has a lovely fancy job at an actual bookshop (Odyssey Books, where you can in fact pre-order this book and then feel delightful about yourself for helping an independent store). Emily and I have negotiated the wonders of Sri Lankan cuisine and wandered the Javits Center together. Would that I could drink with her more often than I have.

INTRODUCTION-wise (I might've tipped back a little something this evening, thus the constant asides), I am Alice. I enjoy the Pleistocene era of megafauna and drinking Shirley Templ…

A synonym for 'Neanderthal' is 'boorish,' which just isn't very nice

So this article came out, which isn't really groundbreaking at all, but it happens to have been published the day after I watched part of the NOVA special "Becoming Human," so it's been on my brain anyway.

I was checking out a book a while ago called Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans, and it was all "Oh dude, our ancestors probably didn't even LOOK at Neanderthals. No way. 'Cause they would've been like, RIDICULOUSLY ugly."

This book was published in 2010. And what came out this year? DNA Shows Humans Found Non-Humans Irresistible

That's right. Your lady ancestor, at some point, sidled up to a Neanderthal gentleman and said "Hey. How's it goin'?

Because all non-Africans ('cause the Africans stayed put instead of traipsing around becoming the Don Juans of prehistoric Europe) have 1-4% Neanderthal DNA. So the above scenario DEFINITELY happened. Which is disheartening NOT because of my huge Neanderth…