Modern Mind and Storytelling
I was asked to “blog the hell out” of the topic I am truly passionate about, everything and anything to do with Machine Prediction. Blogging — the way I see it is the drop in cost of content creation, just the way the rise of mobile phones was a drop in cost of communication. It’s great! Cheap, easy, fast, fascinating. It is the oil for optimising the modern mind literacy in the digital capitalism era. People’s attention span going down, humans needing entertainment constantly. Reading has changed, the form of reading changing. The novel is eroding. Impatience and Consumption conspire to stab the much loved form of tale telling, the “novel.”
I finally saw Harry Potter through the Covid Netflix binging era. Not a fitting end to a marvellous overall story. Perhaps that is the fate of grand ideas, and grand narratives? Must they end so monotonously? In this case, we saw a battle of wands not too different from a battle of guns, which is displayed in every other Hollywood movie (in other genres, it ends with a battle of words…nevertheless, a similar narrative). That’s the boring reality of all fantasy tales, perhaps. The rest end their tales with a quick formula — the decisive battle, the solution to a grand puzzle, the ‘one’ weapon which can defeat the undefeated foe, etc, etc. The epic ending.
History, or actual “reality,” is much more interesting than “fantasy.” For example, think of a grand ending — the end of the Cold War. What a battle. It pitted two foes over decades, and even spawned new narratives in spy novels and films. But, how did it end? Was there fanfare? Was there a major ‘battle’…even of ideas? Was there a courtroom ending, or a grand victory of any sort? No…it crumbled without anyone really being able to predict it, figure out exactly why and how, and celebrate during it. It was a nervous transition, which mixed a lack of confidence with institutional fracturing. Brilliant in its execution, we must say…especially since journalists and political scientists, and every other profession of the “Cold War” did not really see it fomenting, or arriving. It was broadcast after, as there were few ‘events’ to document. The ‘event’ is the curious, and interesting concept here, and its relation to ‘history’ (for is ‘history’ the reduction of a complex life-world, into an easy graspable ‘event’? And if so, is the ‘event’ just as much about the observers, as the observed?). Shahid Amin wrote a book called Event, Memory, Metaphor.
So, although I start my Netflix knowing full well the recipe I shall be served, I hopelessly dream of days where tales are told with more fashion and care. Storytelling…are we getting better or worse at it? All the chatter runs amok, but in it, do we tell intriguing tales? Every now and then, we see people trying, and it is much appreciated by me. Harry Potter failed in the end. Sigh. The imagination domesticated by technology, a grey and bitter sweet part of modernity…all the toys it offers mean nothing without the human spirit being allowed its playground. Shackled too much by the culture of passivity and quick titillation, the mind never develops far-reaching thinking — the type of thinking which requires slow knowledge, logical steps, layered thought…the modern mind is not patient enough for such arguments or tales, and dismisses it (using words like ‘boring’ or ‘too intellectual’…or a ‘who cares’ approach).
George Lukacs, Hungarian Marxist writer, wrote a book on the Theory of the Novel…he was writing about the Form of literature…this new form, the “novel.” Divided into chapters, it was an exercise in slow reading. Unlike the ‘essay’ or the ‘short story,’ the novel arose during the rising period of Bourgeois life. The new ‘middle classes’ in Europe, who consumed, strolled through city streets, sipping at cafes, discussing topics (‘public culture’), forming groups…they read novels. The novel reflected a new approach to the ‘main character’…(‘bildungsroman’ in german)…the main character would be our tour through the world, a tour through the writer’s world. You started getting entire lives described, with chapters on different periods, and you walked through their lives in 300–500 pages. Lukacs makes the link, in argument — the ‘novel’ reflected ‘bourgeois’ tastes, their elevation of themselves…heroes need not be kings and princes and knights and thieves, but also the ‘common man.’ The ‘common man,’ however, was not just any character — he/she embraced, tackled, fought with, lusted after Bourgeois values.
So, capitalism arises, bourgeois appear, and this type of culture changes. The famous Marxist argument about “base” and “superstructure.” The economic base (capitalism) is connected to the artistic expression (the novel), at even the level of its “form”. It was a bold observation.
Fast forward to the today time, there is this Covid, and life after Covid. I was going through a talk show, where Professor Agrawal from the University of Toronto, was asked, how has COVID changed you? I found it quite comforting and intriguing both at the same time to find his answer, “starting a book club on being human and recalibrating technology, AI and human interaction.”
This decade post one of the worst global pandemics, we have an interesting relation with time, the personal time, the right balance of novel and blog, slow and fast reading, slow and fast decision-making and judgment, and hence I hope to continue to be part of a much more grand journey of modern storytelling, consistently disrupting the theory of blogging, the balance of slow knowledge and fast answers, balance of daydreaming and doing.
To the decade of 2021...let’s all be interesting fabulous storytellers…
PS: In my next blog, I shall be writing about my passion for Machine prediction, and hope to share content that enables slow knowledge and fast answers.