Mike Daisey, This American Life and the truest story ever told

Karen Swallow Prior

March 28, 2012

a) I had to look up the word "epistemology".

b) Story really is powerful, isn't it? You've hit the right note pointing out that good story contains truth, and the best story of all is Truth. We all like story, and anyone who's given it any thought knows that even fiction can teach truth. On the other hand, as Daisey and Frey learned, no one wants to be bamboozled along the way; that's no way to be truthful.

Nice job, Karen.


March 30, 2012

Well thank the good Lord and Samuel Johnson for dictionaries, Tim. :) (Sorry about that!)

I love how you put it: bamboozling is not acceptable in any form.

April 2, 2012

Oh my, you've got us all up into the facts v narrative dilemma that any serious student of the gospel accounts can't avoid. We run into it with Adam and Eve and genetics, with the flood and modern geology, and then in Holy Week with whether Jesus quotes Psalm 22 (Matt and Mark) or Ps 31 (Luke) or both, etc.

What a lovely illustration with Mike Daisey, you laid it out so beautifully but I can't help feel that you punted on your conclusion. Are we not too far from the other TC piece I read this AM on Atheists appropriating the technique of religion in order to receive it's deliverable goods apart from metaphysical assertions of "fact"?

We must get our hands dirty with both facts and narrative yet we are necessarily (and happily so) masters of neither. We are witnesses of, heirs and participants in this world with truths to large for our short little arms.

The experiential payload is in the narrative and but it's hollow without the concreteness of the fact, as Paul presses in 1 Cor 15.

Thanks for a delightful piece and a terrific topic. pvk

April 3, 2012

Thank you so much for the kind words. Please tell me where you think I punted; from what you post here my conclusion is the same as yours. I love the facts--and story, too. But I think we are still "seeing in a glass darkly" with both.

April 3, 2012

It's probably a constraint of the format. I know Josh is always riding me to make it shorter (which is helpful). :)

I would have liked to see that dynamic of narrative truth and factuality more fleshed out. I though this case is a brilliant way into the conversation. Daisey fabricated stories to get attention and the conveyors of the story lost credibility when the fabrication was discovered. Yet, there is a sneaking suspicion that despite the fabrication the relationship between those of us hooked on our magic electronics and the means employed by our favorite manufacturer of dreams speaks a crueler word than the glowing promotional videos relay. Apple is making life nice for those who can pay to some degree on the backs of the weak. Can a lie speak the truth?

Did "Inherit the Wind" really communicate what was going on at "the monkey trial" or was it laying down another narrative? Does it matter if Jonah was a story or a parable? Does it matter if Lazarus and the rich man was a story or a parable? This is the ground that the modernist/fundamentalist war was waged and it seems that war isn't finished with us yet.

Maybe my expectations were more than a 700 word post can provide. I thought, however, that using Mike Daisey as the way in was brilliant. I just want it resolved, probably something that we can't quite do right now. :)

April 3, 2012

Case in point. Just reading Andrew Sullivan's Newsweek take on Christianity: " In Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, Augustine Thompson cuts through the legends and apocryphal prayers to describe Saint Francis as he truly lived. " http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/04/01/andrew-sullivan-christianity-in-crisis.html

"truly lived" is of course the key phrase. Pilate asked "what is truth", and the question lives on. :) pvk

April 4, 2012

Agreed. Truth be told, I did send a panicky email to Josh asking what the absolute maximum number of words was. :) Pilate's question was in a draft, too, but didn't make the cut. I did have so much to say but ultimately had to stick with using the case to open the question, particularly for any readers for whom the question might be new. Still figuring out that audience thing. I'll settle for a brilliant question if not a brilliant answer. :) Thanks.

April 4, 2012

And I will look for opportunties for a post (or posts) that might privide more brilliant answers. :)

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