Hey, Friends! Happy New Year! I hope these past few weeks have been incredible for you.
One of the coolest experiences I was my organization's Christmas party. A good friend was in charge of decorating for it and she asked me to come up and help her out. So I spent the week before Christmas in my future hometown, consumed with the minute details of preparation. It was so cool. My friend is so talented when it comes to this. She knows how to make anything beautiful. The coolest part of all was how she did it. A large portion of our decorations came from people's homes. There were souvenirs from trips overseas, statues, candles, bowls, and platters. I thought it was so cool how "home" was represented in the room. The tools we used to make the centerpieces were borrowed from different people in the organization. And finally, we used what God gave us--pinecones, sand, rocks, branches, etc. My friend even dried orange slices, tied twine through them, and used them as Christmas tree ornaments. This was the final product:
Some of the different branches of the tree:
The finished tree:
One of the tables/centerpieces. I think it's funny that the statue seems to be pointing the way to the food!
Here, the statue seems to be pointing to the window. We used that one for "formal" photographs for couples.
Several of the tables and the tree:
The food table! The other half of the magnificent duo who designed this party used to cater for weddings. The food was incredible!
Pretty cool, huh? The room was beautiful. Why? Because my friend had a vision (and the manpower to carry it out). She saw how ingredients from so many walks of life could come together and make something beautiful. Her eye for detail made the room what it was. People exclaimed all night at how incredible it was. Some remarked on specific reasons why they sat at certain tables--their favorite color, the design of that centerpiece, the view of the incredible tree, how a specific piece reminded them of their time overseas.
If the room existed solely in a vaccuum, it would have been beautiful. But what gave it such a profound impact was the relationship of the pieces she used. Our memories, our love of nature (and candles--after all, we've all had to live without electricity), and our experiences layered beauty and gave it depth.
There's a literary theory that says literature in itself does not exist in a vaccuum. Instead, it is contigent on so many different factors, from the work's physical appearance, its existence on the shelves, the author's mindset as he/she wrote, the reader's mindset upon reading, the reader's experiences, memories, and influences, etc. For a reader, the sum total of the impact of the story depends not only on how well we wrote it but also the reader's needs as well. This is one reason why so much of literature is subjective, why this book on missions can rock me but perhaps move someone else in a different way. I went into the story with memories and experiences that made me better able to understand the story and relate specifically to the plot.
Perhaps the best way to think of it is as a symphony. While the work is the composition as a whole--what the audience hears--what makes it are the ingredients of the work (all the different instruments and the expertise of those playing them), the reaction of the audience, and the emotional connection between the two based on memory, taste, desire, experiences, etc. Someone who spent years trying to master the violin will have a greater appreciation for that portion of the symphony and will listen for it above all the others. Someone who loves the flute will watch the flutists with excitement. Does that make sense?
(By the way, offhand I can't remember the name of this theory. It's been years since my literary criticism class and while it was the greatest class I took in college, the textbook and my folder of papers are buried in the basement. I usually just think of it as the "Contingency Theory").
Anywho... what makes this so important are how relationships influence stories--and our reactions to them. We (both as authors and as readers) approach stories with the full person of who we are. And that what makes stories come alive. That's what creates those magical moments, when we've discovered another author we love, another book we will celebrate, for the rest of our lives. It's why so many of us see writing not only as a calling or something we can't not do, but also as a ministry. We hope that our stories will inspire healing, hope, or a myriad of other things. Why? Because of relationships. It's all connected.
It takes a village to create a Story.
Is this something you've ever thought about before? Or is this theory difficult to understand, ridiculous, etc.? The great thing about theory is that it's supposed to make us think. We don't necessarily have to agree. So, what do you think?
3 hours ago