Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Living Spiritual Rhythms - March 8

In Mark’s gospel the story teller is an “omniscient” narrator — one who can be inside people, know their thoughts and feelings, take part in private scenes with one or more characters when not present, and even be in two places simultaneously. As readers of the story we usually assume the trustworthiness of the narrator who is telling the story – we stick to the storyline – or we stop reading.

How about narrative? What is narrative? Umberto Eco, of The Name of the Rose fame, suggests that to tell a story or write a narrative you have to construct a world. On this view, Mark’s gospel is not merely information, but it is a created story world – of course, in my perspective related to, but distinct from the real world.

Yet, Eco’s suggestion, while helpful, needs to be supplemented by another feature of story. Stories connect actions – narrative creates causal relations between one action and another. Think about this. “She sees a cow in the field” is not a narrative – “she sees a cow in the field and milks it” is.

One last feature of narrative, brought to light by Paul Ricoeur, is time. What is recounted in narrative takes place in time and makes time. Stories have a temporal dimension that is not to be missed or ignored if we are to better understand them. But surely there are at least a few other important elements of narrative: plot, point of view, characters, intrigue, suspense, drama, audience-reader all require due consideration when reading the gospel stories.