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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reason and Story--and Hamlet

Reason and Story
In one context, the other of reason is unreason, its opposite. In another, its other is story, which is not an opposite at all.
Unreason exists in the realm of reason. Story exists in a realm external to reason and unreason. Think of two nonoverlapping circles.
Reason and story are two distinct ways of seeing, describing, living in the world. From the point of view of the one, they are mutually exclusive. From the point of view of the other, they are not circles. We can live here without reason; we cannot without story.
Reason and story are the two ways we perceive, understand, and respond to being. Reason sees the world as a state that is, reason wants a hierarchy; story sees the world as a field, a field of incessant becoming. Reason wants to put the right name on everything. Story sees that nouns are never quite accurate.  
Both are necessary. Story is the name given to the other by reason. Our perspective, here, in this little essay is that of reason. This is not a story about the two realms of thought. The same exploration should be done from the point of view of story. And it has—too many times to name—never better than in Hamlet.
In the realm of reason, opposites contradict. In the realm of story opposites exist without contradiction. A man can be rich and poor, kind and evil, right and wrong.
In the realm of reason, Hamlet is a hopelessly confused character and a particularly confused play. Reason cannot make sense of the play. It tries. It is reason’s job to try. Reason understands the appeal of the play. Reason should never give up the play. But it will never bring the play into itself.
Story is where Hamlet happens, and story too tries endlessly to make sense of Hamlet. (Gertrude of Denmark, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Gertrude and Claudius are just three of many 20th-century examples of this, ones whose attempts are more or less direct.) But story is not anxious about Hamlet. Hamlet is a pool in which story swims.

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