Does a Story Change Our Point Of View or Does Our Point of View Change The Story?

So I was digging in some archives this week. The story I had was pretty simple, this priest started a Boy Scouts chapter  in the 1960s and when he left the community it ended. I don't know what I was thinking I'd dig up, but anything would be helpful. I was hoping for the Scouts leaders, maybe the participants... you know, some fun facts to make a little article about it.

The truth was somewhat deeper. Yeah, yeah, this priest started the Boy Scouts, but from that first fact I  imagined he was the leader. But he didn't run it, he had Brothers run it. These Brothers did quite a few awesome things in the community. And from his own letters I read about how he was having trouble with these Brothers not respecting him. All this priest wanted was a little respect, and he had a list of times when they were purposely destroying him. In fact, as a team, they were bullying him, using the fact that the community liked them to turn everyone against him. They were giving him the cold shoulder and this was affecting his status in the community and his ability to do his job. And yup, not once was this denied in the replies from the Brother Superior.

But, there are always two sides, right? And when I had someone else read one of the letters, her comment was, "He sure has a lot of pointless complaints." And I won't list them all here, but yeah, they could be considered trivial grievances, things like leaving mass early to get to class... Things weren't instant messaged back in the 60's, so months later he got a reply stating that respect works both ways and the reason they didn't respect him was because of how he had openly called them down during mass, repeatedly, or that he was purposely doing these masses when he knew they were committed elsewhere... The priest was reminded about how dedicated they were and how much they were giving back to the community. Brother Superior had his own list of things the priest had done to degrade the Brothers and not appreciate all the things they were doing. And once again, this list could be considered trivial grievances or perhaps fuel to the fire.

As an exhausted mediator, the Brother Superior asked both parties to show compassion and remember their mission. He reminded them that these small problems were not worth the trouble and that if they could put them aside, they would see real change in the community. Some good advice, in writing.

The letters stopped, or went missing, maybe the priest burned them. Maybe the issues were resolved or maybe they got worse. Heck, maybe a zombie clan ate the lot. We won't ever know. What I do know is that years passed and both the Brothers and the priest left the community because they were needed elsewhere... and so ended the Boy Scouts, never to start up again.

Now. I tried to remain objective. Did you?  Think about it, when I used the word "bullying" did you side with the priest being picked on by a gang of Brothers or when I used the word "trivial" did you side with the Brothers doing all the work for the priest and not getting any appreciation? Did you feel the frustration of the Brother Superior when I used the word "exhausted", maybe even hear him sigh as he thought about how childish they were all being? Or did you see the other victims: the Boy Scouts and think about all the future generations missing out?

Words are powerful and can quickly move me from being objective to getting you to see things my way. Now, even better, as the storyteller, I can spin this in any one direction and lose my objectivity to take you on an emotional ride... Heck, I can even go all fantasy and say a Dark Whisperer visited this town and did a little whispering, spreading this chaos. And a Light Whisperer (The Brother Superior), tried to fix things. Or I could go all zombie apocalypse and say they were attacked by zombies and couldn't work together, and the Boy Scouts were eaten! Now they feel bad. I mean, who wouldn't?

And once I pick a side, a victim, a setting, and decide who is the good guy and who is the bad guy (even if there is none) I have a story. It'll change from storyteller to storyteller as they add in their perspective, their voice, even their beliefs. And in doing so, the same story can be retold different ways and make us think of different truths and different possibilities, without ever giving us the truth, the whole truth or without ever lying.

Mind boggling.

So is the story changing how we see the players or are the players changing the way we see story? Is it the words having this imagery effect on our senses? Or our own experiences?

It got me thinking about an exercise I did in a writing class once. The teacher showed us a picture of a tree with a door. The Sci-fi writers went off telling us how this door was going to open onto some other dimension. I knew it was the home of fairy, and of course the history buff at the table said it was clearly some symbolic thing. The romance writer had a lovely tale to share about a maiden in hiding... and so this door kept our creative minds busy. Not one of us had the same idea about the same door (it was red, by the way, with a brass knocker and two cement steps leading up to it, a flower pot on the right side). And depending on how the tale was told, our emotions were evoked and our imagination let loose.

Thanks to social media, are we picking sides based on what we read without getting all the story or based on someone's point of view of the story? Or is it the opposite and thanks to social media and searches, we can get the story with objectivity? What do you think? Are you seeing more and more storytelling or more and more factual objective tales?

And I know you're dying to share your story about the door in the tree, so please do.

5 comments:

Richard Hughes said...

What a conundrum. I guess the answer lies in the eyes of the beholder.

DUTA said...

Words are powerful but not that powerful. To me facts and experience matter more. The fact is the priest is one, the brothers are many. From my experience, the Brother Superior will usually go with the many.

Misha Gericke said...

I definitely think it works both ways. What we read do evoke emotions and beliefs, and often it helps form us. On the other hand, what we believe can influence HOW we read something, which in turn affects what emotions a piece of writing would evoke.

(For example, someone who grew up not believing bullies exist would think the priest is nothing but a whiner.)

Valentina Hepburn said...

Everyone has a different perspective. One person's truth is not another's. And sometimes the good guy doesn't win. That's if he is the good guy.

Suzi said...

Yeah, those words definitely make a difference. Especially when repeated. Over the years, I've started to notice that especially in national news media, which we want to be objective and just state the facts. But those little words creep in that show the newscaster's opinion instead of just facts. It's irritating sometimes, but I think that's just become how it is.

Because you're so right. There's always two sides to the story, and rarely do we have the full story on both sides.