Have you ever thought about how you think about things? Is your stream of conscious thought in the style of a documentary? Do you narrate events in your life like a detective in a film noir piece? Or does your thinking mirror a monologue to the camera like those annoying spots in Malcolm in the Middle?
Trolling through the links on Dan’s blog I found myself at the home of Michael Jensen’s blog. He’s one of the famous Sydney Anglican Jensen tribe. He’s doing some sort of study in England – you can find it if you like, but I can’t be bothered searching for the link. He posted an entry on viewing life as a stream of narrative. He’s a pretty smart guy. I didn’t really read all that much but it got me thinking about thinking and how I frame my thoughts. I think my stream of thoughts often flows like a stream of narrative – I do things in time and space, interacting with other characters and these interactions lead to outcomes – problems are resolved, conflicts arise… and my thinking reflects that. I think about how to solve things – and the voice in my head (which I guess is consciousness not some weird psychological condition) follows the narrative, or even pre-empts and influences the narrative, when the interactive bits of life are happening.
News stories are taking bits of a stream of narrative and analysing the elements. The journalistic definition of “news” is information that is of some interest to the public. The approach journalists take when they report news is to answer the big 6 questions – known in the industry as the 5 Ws and 1 H – who, what, when, where, why, and how. If narrative is a stream of connected events occuring in space and time then all these elements will be addressed.
Being of a journalistic, inquisitive bent I find that my approach to the narrative of my life has been somewhat influenced by this paradigm (paradigm is one of my favourite words). Not only do I approach any “conflict” or events that arise in my narrative (life) through the framework provided by these questions – but I’ve started viewing every event that occurs in terms of its newsworthyness.
There are a number of jokes out there featuring different professions and how they see the world – or the simple things in life. A true story I heard recently featured a group of people watching the football – a dentistry student, a med student, and an excercise/sports science student. During the game there was an incident where a player collided with another player’s head. Play was stopped while the player received some medical attention. The dentist commented on the effect the impact would have on the player’s teeth, the med student named the bones that may have been fractured, and the sports science student pointed at a guy in the background and said “he’s doing that static stretch wrong.”
And here, after that complicated five paragraph intro is the story that prompted this post… last night I was driving home from Mission Beach (where I’d been for a work function featuring Beechworth bakery owner Tom O’Toole (an interesting character)) with one other member of the Townsville Enterprise team. It’s a 2.5 hour drive to Mission Beach from Townsville – some say 3. Just outside of town we were stopped by a collection of emergency service vehicles attending the scene of a major accident… and do you want to know what my first thought was? Where are the TV cameras… this is a news story. I had my phone in my hand calling WIN television’s news director with the hot tip before I’d even considered the possibility that people may have been seriously hurt by the crash. When did I become so callous? Have I been that desensitised by years of watching and reading the news? Tom O’Toole made a comment about watching the news that was funny enough to repeat:
“If a dog came into your house and pooed on the ground while you were eating dinner you wouldn’t just sit there and watch him – you’d kick it out of the house, or worse… but every night we let the news do the same thing – it feeds half an hour of crap into our living rooms and we just watch it without thinking. I stopped watching news 20 years ago, and now when I turn on the television it’s the same news anyway – same wars, same crimes, same politics… you may not be what you eat, but you are what you fill your head with.”
Has anyone else been so obviously scarred by their profession? Do the teachers out there see every event in life as an opportunity to fill a lesson plan? Do opera singers see every tragedy as a potential aria (the style of song not the Australian Recording Industry Award)? Do IT people ever see any events that happen in the wider world? and do proctologists just think the world is a bunch of (feel free to insert an appropriate colloquialism here – I’m not going to do your dirty work for you).