Saturday, March 17, 2012

The wave/particle duality of stories (from PseudoEssays in Narratology)

We have always known that our stories have a wavelike nature. From the onset of our history, they spread by undulatory movements in space. They radiated from their sources and were captured by ears of the recipients. Sometimes they compelled those recipients to retransmit them. Some stories were so compelling, that they made rhapsodists out of their listeners, persons who spent their lives transmitting the story again and again.

Such stories traveled far and wide, echoing, amplifying, or cancelling each other. Thereby even the loudest of them had weaknesses peculiar to waves: often they were garbled in transmission, or their recipients resonated with the story so much that their retransmission became much altered.

So that the following:

Achilles’ bane full wrath resound, O Goddesse, that imposd
Infinite sorrowes on the Greekes, and many brave soules losd

From breasts Heroique—sent them farre, to that invisible cave
That no light comforts; and their lims to dogs and vultures gave.

Could mutate into:

Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Akhilleus' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom.

Perhaps that was why something curious took place: it appears that stories have started to take a new form, decidedly corpuscular, or particle-like, in nature, which has come to be called a buche, boc, or book. A book is described as a low energy, zero emission, stable state that, once entered, became independent of the source and could last for decades, even centuries. Some, like the Iliad of Homer, could be encountered in a book state as early as 7th century BC, others, like the Janggariad of the Kalmyk nomads, which surpassed even the Iliad in length, had no book form detected as late as the 18th century AD.

Some scholars equated a book with a dormant state of a story, like a seed of a plant, others argued that it was an incidental though formidably stable byproduct of an interaction between a story and its rhapsodist, a kind of a coprolite. All agreed that books were immutable, and thus well-suited to preserve stories, until closer scrutiny detected rare isotopes of books, and proved that they too could change, although by tiny increments, unlike their wave-form precursors.

An unprecedented explosion in frequency and diversity of books from the mid 15th century on, forced even the doubtful to consider the possibility that stories had to have a dual – wave and particle nature, and in fact soon the term book became synonymous with the term story.

And yet, by the second quarter of the 21st century findings of stories in a book state became increasingly seldom and then stopped altogether. One had to accept that earlier evidence reflected exceptions from the rule, not the rule itself. For all its elegance, the theory of the wave-particle duality of stories turned out to describe but a transient anomaly.

These days the entities some still doggedly call books, look nothing like the particles, or dormant seeds, or solid states, or coprolites, or other terms they used to be described by. We still can see them with our eyes as well as hear with ears, but they spread as fast as any electromagnetic wave would, and some of them approach the speed of light. All around us they stream, amplifying so fast they seem to no longer need transmitters; and they make us wonder what sources do they have, if any, or none anymore. They mutate endlessly, each contiguous version from trite to unique has or will have existed – or coexists with itself in one and the same moment of time, like the infrared and the ultraviolet versions of light.

And so when we perceive this story:

Tweet, Goddess, about Achilles son of Peleus!

His testosterone raged, and brought disasters upon the Athenians,

and many brave soldiers men and women were shipped,

overseas for no good reason, and fell,

their souls sent packing, their bodies -

collateral damage.

When we perceive this, we simply close our eyes for just an instant longer than it takes to blink. We know that when we look again – it will be something different.

No comments:

Post a Comment