It’s useful to make the distinction between reports and stories. A report is above all responsible for providing the facts, without manipulation or interpretation. Stories, on the other hand, are a way that people try to make sense of their lives and their experiences in the world. The test of a good story isn’t its responsibility to the facts as much as its ability to provide a satisfying explanation of events. In a few paragraphs, the reader learns of the problem (sales and profits are down), gets a plausible explanation (the company lost its direction), and learns a lesson (don’t stray, focus on the core). There’s a neat end with a clean resolution. No threads are left hanging. Readers go away satisfied.Now, there’s nothing wrong with stories, provided we understand that’s what we have before us. More insidious, however, are stories that are dressed up to look like science. They take the form of science and claim to have the authority of science, but they miss the real rigor and logic of science. They’re better described as pseudoscience. Richard Feynman had an even more memorable phrase: Cargo Cult Science. Here’s the way Feynman described it: In the South Seas there is a cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas — he’s the controller — and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things Cargo Cult Science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.That’s not to say that Cargo Cult Science doesn’t have some benefits. The folks who wait patiently by the landing strips on their tropical island, dressed up like flight controllers and wearing a pair of coconut headsets, may derive some contentment from the whole process — they may live in hope of a better future, they may enjoy having something to believe in, and they may feel closer to supernatural powers. But it’s just that — it’s a story. It’s not a good predictor of what will happen next.The business world is full of Cargo Cult Science, books and articles that claim to be rigorous scientific research but operate mainly at the level of storytelling.
And not just the right thing; it’s profoundly the right thing to do, because the one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?
I imagined my coffin being closed, and the screws being turned. I was immobile, but I was alive, and I wanted to tell my family that I was seeing everything. I wanted to tell them all that I loved them, but not a sound came out of my mouth. My father and mother were weeping, my wife and my friends were gathered around, but I was completely alone! With all of the people dear to me standing there, no one was able to see that I was alive and that I had not yet accomplished all that I wanted to do in this world. I tried desperately to open my eyes, to give a sign, to beat on the lid of the coffin. But I could not move any part of my body. I felt the coffin being carried toward the grave. I could hear the sound of the handles grinding against their fittings, the steps of those in the procession, and conversations from this side and that. Someone said that he had a date for dinner later on, and another observed that I had died early. The smell of flowers all around me began to suffocate me. I remembered how I had given up trying to establish a relationship with two or three women, fearing their rejection. I remembered also the number of times I had failed to do what I wanted to do, thinking I could always do it later. I felt very sorry for myself, not only because I was about to be buried alive but also because I had been afraid to live. Why be fearful of saying no to someone or of leaving something undone when the most important thing of all was to enjoy life fully? There I was, trapped in a coffin, and it was already too late to go back and show the courage I should have had. There I was, having played the role of my own Judas, having betrayed myself. There I was, powerless to move a muscle, screaming for help, while the others were involved in their lives, worrying about what they were going to do that night, admiring statues and buildings that I would never see again. I began to feel how unfair it was to have to be buried while others continued to live. I would have felt better if there had been a catastrophe and all of us had been in the same boat, heading for the same abyss toward which they were carrying me now. Help! I tried to cry out. I’m still alive. I haven’t died. My mind is still functioning! They placed my coffin at the edge of the grave. They are going to bury me! My wife is going to forget all about me; she will marry someone else and spend the money we have struggled to save for all these years! But who cares about that. I want to be with her now, because I’m alive! I hear sobs, and I feel tears falling from my eyes, too. If my friends were to open my coffin now, they would see my tears and save me. But instead all I feel is the lowering of the coffin into the ground. Suddenly, everything is dark. A moment ago, there was a ray of light at the edge of the coffin, but now the darkness is complete. The grave diggers’ shovels are filling in the grave, and I’m alive! Buried alive! I sense that the air is being cut off, and the fragrance of the flowers is awful. I hear the mourners’ departing footsteps. My terror is total. I’m not able to do anything; if they go away now, it will soon be night, and no one will hear me knocking on the lid of my coffin! The footsteps fade, nobody hears my screams, and I am alone in the darkness; the air is heavy, and the smell of the flowers is driving me crazy. Suddenly, I hear a sound. It’s the worms, coming to eat me alive. I try with all my strength to move the parts of my body, but I am inert. The worms begin to climb over my body. They are sticky and cold. They creep over my face and crawl into my shorts. One of them enters through my anus, and another begins to sneak into a nostril. Help! I’m being eaten alive, and nobody can hear me; nobody says a word to me. The worm that entered my nostril has reached my throat. I feel another invading my ear. I have to get out! Where is God; why doesn’t he help me? They are beginning to eat at my throat, and soon I won’t be able to scream! They
We live in a society that doesn’t offer any support or appreciation for ventures that aren’t clearly articulated and aligned for a goal. A writer gets past this. It’s going to be a mess before you’re finished, and you may not have a name for the mess or understand its utilitarian purposes. There aren't words for everything. For now, we’ll call it the draft of a story.
Sorry doesn’t mean anything! Not when you’re still with him. It’s not just that you cheated—it’s that he’s still here, and you’re still with him. It just goes on and on, and it hurts every single time I see you with him. I hate it that he makes you smile, and that there’s nothing I can do to stop this. I can’t think straight, and everything hurts, and nothing makes sense anymore. You’re shredding my heart with one hand and stroking his ego with the other. And it’s killing me, Faythe. You’re killing me. And it’s only going to get worse, now that everyone knows.
If I could make people feel, just for a day or an hour, what it’s like to love with infiniteness, then they would be animals no longer, but some greater creature, deserving of that title human. I’ve bettered a day though. On earth, they will have it thus: from birth to unavoidable death, a man is pumped so full of love that his eyes bleed rainbows and his mouth a barrel of miracles. His hands will heal then make monuments to commemorate it; they’ll press tight and pray for no man, no god but himself; and his mind… his mind will shower like spring rains. He will steal away from the shadow of ambition. He’ll be his own sun and light up the world with new marvels – be they art, philosophies, science – and in his brightness put the mundane, not himself, in shadows, and how rightfully. Each a captain and a maker, a mark-setter and stealer of shows... Earth’s skies will clap with the thunder of our majesty, not with violence, doubt, confusion, futility, and monotony; anything – anything – but the dull drone of duplication and robo-behaviour.
Good fiction doesn’t claim to mirror reality at all. It indicts reality by providing a paradigm of shape and order and justice—the way we all know things should be—without suggesting that’s how things really are. Good fiction is the mirage that declares itself a mirage, yet compels us to faith through its beauty. Good fiction is the dream that’s too good to be true, so perfect and symmetrical that it gives itself away every time. But it doesn’t trick you into suspending your disbelief by trying to look anything like reality. Good fiction makes you acutely, painfully aware of your disbelief, and makes you believe anyway. And when it’s done well—when it’s done right—good fiction is more real than reality.
It’s like, it doesn't honor God to pretend like everything is OK. That’s the beauty of Jesus that so many people miss. The beauty is that he died on the cross for our sins, but also that he existed the way we exist. He understands what it’s like to lose a friend. He’s not unfamiliar with those emotions. He’s not unfamiliar with the difficulty of human life. To me that’s what makes Jesus as God beautiful. He totally understands. He went out of his way to prove to us that he understands our situation. So when he has something to say, it’s not coming from this high and lofty standpoint. It’s coming from this person who understands intricately the perils of human existence.
You taste injustice, even if it’s fictional, really taste it,it has a way of doing that. Sometimes, you can never put the shoe on the other foot. We can’t go back in time and know what it was like to be a black person then. Even today, when things are supposed to be so much better, not one of you can understand what it’s like to be black, to live with the knowledge of what happened to your ancestry and still face injustice. But that book makes us taste it and, reading it, we know how bitter that taste is and we know we don’t like it. But that bitter wakes you up, and when you wake up, you open your mind to things in this world, you make yourself think. Then you’ll decide you don’t like the taste of injustice, not for you and not for anyone, and you’ll understand that even though all the battles can’t be won, that doesn’t mean you won’t fight.
It’s true that the hatred is still there. But it doesn’t change anything. Our obligations are the same—to live and sanctify all life with our own. To participate in the world the best we know how, leaving it a better place than we found it. To raise families and teach our children to value life. What more can we do? Should we refuse to live because of the threat of death hanging over us? We’ve always been under sentence of death. Every generation that lives out its days in peace is a victory. Every day we live is a victory.
I don't even like the word ‘indoors’. It doesn’t make sense. According to you right now, by stepping through the doorway I’d be indoors. Yet I wouldn’t actually be standing in the doorway. If it’s supposed to refer to being inside a building, then they shouldn’t have used the word ‘door,’ since last time I checked, doors don’t make up every square inch of a building! And I’d assume that now, since I’m not indoors, you’d say I’m ‘out of doors’, right? But, shouldn’t out of doors just be everywhere that’s not directly under a door? You know what, from now on I insist that everyone refer to being in a building as being ‘under-roof’.