There is no such knowledge of the nation as comes of traveling in it, of seeing eye to eye its vast extent, its various and teeming wealth, and, above all, its purpose-full people
– Samuel Bowles
Google map of literary road trips, the journeys taken in books by American travel writers. I haven’t logged as many miles myself, but I’m getting there.
Whenever we reminisce or try to find meaning in our lives, we tend to look at separate moments in an overall context or series of events that occurred. We look at moments as parts of stories that happened, in which we are just characters. I do this so often that I suppose I’m a narrativist. Often, I even approach the search for meaning using tools typically employed in literary, or interpretive, study.
This article has me rethinking that position. In our stories, most of the irrelevant details that make up the bulk of life are left out. Novels and films skip over the parts that don’t progress the story, and we do as well. Yet, these boring parts do still happen. Life includes all the boring things like driving our cars to and from work, events so trivial that we don’t even recall the trip when we get home. Our driving was on autopilot and we were elsewhere daydreaming. It’s difficult to reconcile a position that looks at the stories in life for substance, when the greater portion is made up of all these other events.
It’s possible that narrativists are missing something important in the boring bits.