Drama explained, via Vonnegut
June 6, 2011 8:30 PM   Subscribe

I skipped the 8th grade dance to go see him give this speech. It was totally worth it.
posted by NoraReed at 8:35 PM on June 6, 2011 [7 favorites]

Real life is like a Daubechies 4-tap wavelet?
posted by Nomyte at 8:53 PM on June 6, 2011

It's funny because it's true.
posted by ericost at 9:02 PM on June 6, 2011

Well, modern life is safe and boring too, which leads to the same sort of behavior.
posted by MillMan at 9:07 PM on June 6, 2011

Well, yes?
I love Vonnegut, and he usually says things better than anyone else but "We're trying to make our life into a fairy tale." is pretty obvious.

It's also the motivation between almost everything I do. In the social networking thread it's seen as a bad thing, but its okay when done with stories?

That's what we do. We map our lives onto epics. Even a walk through Dublin can become a Greek heroic saga, and maybe my walk to work can become that walk.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:09 PM on June 6, 2011

Kurt knows drama.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:11 PM on June 6, 2011

I wouldn't usually do this outside of an obit thread, but:
posted by chmmr at 9:17 PM on June 6, 2011

Lovecraft In Brooklyn: Well, yes?

Sometimes things seem obvious once you know them. Also, even things that are obvious all the time can be beautifully expressed.

So it goes.
posted by ericost at 9:18 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Could be crosslisted in the Mary Sue thread.
posted by smirkette at 9:56 PM on June 6, 2011

This is sweet and all, but I was kinda hoping that the actual essay his speech was based on would be posted....

So let me rectify that.
posted by Pope Gustafson I at 10:29 PM on June 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

smirkette: "Could be crosslisted in the Mary Sue thread."

And a non-zero number of Ask Metafilter human relations questions. However, the first person who unkindly throws the quote

People have been hearing fantastic stories since time began. The problem is, they think life is supposed to be like the stories

in a specific someone's face is still a dick, no matter how right they might be. That doesn't mean I won't use it sometime to hold a mirror up to a specific Vonegut-adoring, drama-prone friend, but it's the type of example you shouldn't use lightly.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:52 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are more of these in A Man Without A Country, without the stuff about us trying to make our life dramatic. The one for The Metamorphosis is my favorite (it's basically an arrow pointing down with an infinity sign).
posted by NoraReed at 11:24 PM on June 6, 2011

My chart looks something like this.
posted by chronkite at 11:56 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

What's with the loopy bit, chronkite? Are you a time traveler?
posted by NoraReed at 1:49 AM on June 7, 2011

Judging by the time loops and the extreme (yet kind of predictable) spikes beetween bad and good stuff, I think chronkite must be The Doctor.
posted by Mooseli at 2:50 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Teenage life = in a well.

20+ = happily ever after.
posted by mahershalal at 3:30 AM on June 7, 2011

Gonna go read the essay (meager blog entry is meager) but already think this is nonsense. Maybe if you forgot how to make a story that happened to you interesting by observing minute details. Or forgot how to make and find your life interesting, maybe the media fucked you. Life is always stranger than fiction. Ha, yesterday my friend the published writer uploaded new short stories and I found a couple of them describe stuff that happened to me. It's those kind of things making me feel I have an "arc".
posted by yoHighness at 5:50 AM on June 7, 2011

... guess all I'm saying is even if I just go to the dentist that arc looks like a fucking Norse epic.
posted by yoHighness at 6:07 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's dead Jim.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:25 AM on June 7, 2011

I saw Kurt Vonnegutt give this very speech at Trinity University in San Antonio about 20 years ago. It's one of the cooler and more special memories I have.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:32 AM on June 7, 2011

Yup, looks like we killed it.
posted by antifuse at 8:10 AM on June 7, 2011

guess all I'm saying is even if I just go to the dentist that arc looks like a fucking Norse epic

That's a feature of scale. Have you ever heard that bit of trivia that, if they were the same size, the surface of the Earth would be smoother than the surface of a billiard ball?

The line for, say, Cinderella maps to a few weeks/months of her life. If you made one for Twelve Angry Men, it would map to a few hours. The line of your own life maps to decades, which by necessity will tend to round off the high points and the low. The mechanics of zooming out will shrink the scale, and memory tends to erode off the peak bits too.

But if you were to zoom in on any portion of that largely smooth-looking line graph sufficiently, it would be full of huge peaks and valleys. The extremes would be exaggerated. Yeah, your trip to the dentist feels like a Norse epic. I bet the trip you took to the dentist 3 years ago doesn't. And I bet all the things between then and now especially don't.
posted by penduluum at 8:19 AM on June 7, 2011

Drama is good. Life is a story; why read a bland one?

I'm not saying make trouble, I'm saying have adventures.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:30 AM on June 7, 2011

penduluum, I see your point. Even though you're wrong about the dentist visits from 3 years ago. I had time to read the actual essay posted upthread and the blog post - google cache again.

This question of "why does there have to be an arc?" is hugely interesting to me. Reminds me of the brilliant thread about the link between creativity and depression a while back.

I wonder how that's connected to the idea of crisis and the "valley of tears" as some sort of prerequisite for positive change and creativity - which Vonnegut points out as limited to Western culture and different to the folk tales from the Arapaho. I wish he'd said more about their stories. What drives the plot forward there? (On preview: Don't they have adventures?)
posted by yoHighness at 10:50 AM on June 7, 2011

The story or fairytale that we create out of our daily lives is just the side effect of our viewpoint. Which is that we have an immutable viewpoint to look on to the daily happenings around us, we are the hero of our own story. It's implicit in our interactions and living. It's our only perspective and therefore the stories weave around us. Some people have such strong and constant revisionism working in their heads they will flat out "hand to god" deny they did something wrong just to maintain even an outward facade of rightness, much less just to keep things in place in their head. Of course cognitive dissonance is also a great tool for those types situations.

When people deal with low self esteem then most likely their internal narrative is discounting them as the hero. Either they need to build themselves back up or need to confront their ego and get the story straight.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:19 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I completed an application for a college I had no intention of attending, including begging for references and taking the SAT (my college of choice didn't require it), just to get a college visit day and drive 7 hours each way to the other freaking side of Ohio just to hear him give this speech (oh, about 27 years ago).
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:40 PM on June 7, 2011

I don't want to get too academic/boring/coldporridge on this, but then again maybe I do because here I am. This is by no means a new idea. In relatively recent history, this is the essence of the argument between Ben Jonson and Shakespeare. Jonson argued for a realistic, "classical" (meaning Aristotelian/Horation) presentation of realistic drama and poetry, etc. as opposed to a neoplatonic Shakespeare.

This too, was Cervantes point with Don Quixote, essentially claiming that fantasy will drive you nuts.

While I side with the fantasy nutcakes like Shakespeare, I like to think I respect the alternate viewpoint, and search for a balance.
posted by benjonson at 9:17 PM on June 7, 2011

benjonson, that kind of porridge is what keeps me coming back to "Recent Activity".
posted by yoHighness at 12:15 PM on June 8, 2011

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