Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Happened to the Good Stories?

Here's a snippet from an interview I just did with a Christian magazine called Aletheia. It will be coming out later in the summer.

Q: Where would you say our culture stands in regards to good storytellers and stories?

BN: My opinion is that we have nearly lost the ability to tell a good story. Part of this is the loss we are seeing in all the art forms, which I think has something to do with the loss of rigor and discipline that is the doorway to the beautiful. Also, I think a lot of the artistic impulses in our time have been drowned in Ritalin and Prozac. Finally, I think the urge to make something beautiful comes from a sense of gratitude and immortality. In our culture, both those values are ever more quaint.

When we consider the Church, nothing is clearer than that we seem to have proudly cast off the beautiful as an elitist throwback to a less enlightened time. In the Church, we spurn the beautiful in favor of egalitarianism, politics and utility. I have had priests tell me that they can’t afford to ensure beautiful music for the liturgy, or else that beautiful music is relative, or that beautiful music is less important than in making Doris and Stan, the untalented but warm-hearted music ministry folks, feel appreciated. After the terrible music, the next most egregiously bad practiced art from in the Church today is oratory. Too many of our pastors seem to take it as a point of pride that their homilies have nothing of the basics of a good speech about them. Far from making our hearts burn within us, most homilies today leave the faithful’s brains burning with indignation. I’m waiting for people to finally crest with all the banality and start shouting back at the pulpit.

In Hollywood, storytelling has been lost mainly due to the fact that movies are seen first as commercial products and second as whole, harmonious and radiant stories. There is no change to any part of a story that today’s studio wont make to please an egomaniacal actor or director. There is no part of a movie too sacred not to be cheapened by product placement. There is no overarching theme that can survive the endless tinkering of producers trying desperately to bring the project in on time and under budget. The only real future for good storytelling seems to be outside the studio system. It’s sad, but I think Hollywood’s days of having access to the imagination of the world are gone.

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