Hi. I’m Jon.
I wish I knew exactly when it started. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been looking at words. I have a memory, as a child, of sitting on the ground, next to the hedge where I was supposed to be cleaning out leaves and papers and stuff. I was reading a fragment of something that had blown across the yard.
I sat at the table reading cereal boxes. I read books, constantly. I read in the car. I read in the bathroom. I read under the covers when I was supposed to be sleeping.
One summer, I borrowed a whole stack of original brown Hardy Boys books from an aunt. It was wonderful.
My parents wanted me to be helpful, to play, to be normal. I read.
In high school, it got worse. My sophomore year, I discovered Tolkien. I started easy, with The Hobbit. Pretty soon, I was deep into The Lord of the Rings. I was lost. I’ve read all four books ten, maybe fifteen, maybe more times.
[be honest, please]
Okay, more. And Dorothy Sayers detective novels and C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy and parts of the Bible and on and on. But it isn’t just books and it isn’t all books. I struggle with philosophy books, but I can read the story of a year on the NASCAR circuit without a second thought. I read serious books, but I jump from example to metaphor, skipping the theory, slurping up the story.
I will actually listen to commercials, following the story. If I can hear the television while working, the dialogue draws me in. I listen to stories I don’t care about from people I don’t know. I skim through my RSS reader, skipping the headlines, seizing on the story line. I don’t waste time watching movies. I can read the plot summary and see the whole thing. Why waste time on the theatrical experience, just give me the next story?
I used to think it wasn’t a problem, that my obsession with stories didn’t hurt anyone else.
Now I see I was wrong. The hundreds of times my mother said, “are you okay in there?” The hours of other people’s time wasted when they asked a simple question and I answered with, “that reminds me of the time…” The days spent in a bleary-eyed fog after a long night of “just one more chapter.”
Here’s the problem. Being addicted to story is like being addicted to air. It is what we live on. Without it we die.
But I’m getting some help.
I’m starting meta-narrative therapy. Rather than grabbing every story I can find indiscriminately, I’m looking for how they link together, how they have threads running through. I’m starting to see that maybe the dreary text between the examples might lead to a larger level of understanding. I’m thinking that maybe, with white noise to block the dialog sometimes, I might be able to spend more time deeper.
I try to read the Bible. I’m wondering what would happen if I looked at it, not as a book of lists or rules or strange names, but as a collection of letters to a beloved.
What if God really exists and really cares about people like a groom cares about a bride? And what if the groom is a King and the bride is an abused slave girl? What if that groom wrote a bunch of letters to that bride, in the middle of her slavery, telling her that he loved her, saying what life in the court is like, telling her how to live in the courts of the King. What if he explained what happens to the people who are holding her in slavery? What if he told the stories of what love means. What if he wrote about his own love for her which caused him to give up his royal position and live in exile and die for her.
Would that slave girl look at those letters as rules or as expressions of love? Would she see a life more restrictive or a hope of freedom. Would she look in them for ways to restrict, or would she be reading them and saying to other slaves, “the prince is coming, he really does love me, he somehow smuggled food to me, he wants me.”
And what would a community that was built around love letters from the king look like?
I’m sorry. I’ve gone on too long. It’s that story thing again.
[It’s okay. You see the problem. That’s the starting point.]
You know, I wonder, sometimes, if I’ve missed the narrative for the stories.