Stories End. Or Stop.

I don’t know why I should bother posting blog entries anymore. This weekend I was linked by Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Beast, so it can only go downhill from here. But since Christianity is a faith built on the glory of the humble, I trust that the truly faithful among you will follow me on my slide from such heights of glory down to the pits of lowliness.

But all good stories are like this. They move. They encounter tensions. They resolve. Or they don’t.

I remember the angst of my heart when I first watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The great, climactic scene of the film, right when you know everything is about to be resolved, and the movie stops. It doesn’t end. It just stops.

The story is unsatisfying. We want to know what happened. We imagine what came next. We protest against the writers for stealing the most important part of the story from us.

People seem to have responded to Mark’s Gospel in the same way. The story doesn’t end. It simply stops. The lack of an ending was too much. Resolution was needed–so it was given.

Some might even say the same about the ending of Luke-Acts. Paul preaches the gospel in Rome with all openness, unhindered. Ok, so what then? We make up stories: about testifying before Caesar, about a release and subsequent journeys, about… well… anything that can make for a better ending than simply stopping.

But this very impulse to finish the story testifies to the genius of stopping rather than ending.

When a story ends, we can shut the book and walk away. We have completed our there-and-back-again tale. We know that happily ever after has descended.

But when it simply stops, we can’t let go so easily. We immediately scramble–first, perhaps, to protest, then to know what happens next.

To my mind, this is the genius of Mark. Some have maintained that the point of simply stopping is to send you back to the beginning. I’m not so sure. I think the point of not having an ending is to begin searching for the threads of how the narrative continues: past the fear and silence and into the present where we stand, now, as testaments to the fact that fear and silence were not the final word. The kingdom of God has grown up like a seed–on its own, the farmer knows not how.

And this, too, is the value we find in telling our stories to our friends. When we tell our stories to the people in our various communities, they can only stop. In this life, there is no truly resolve ending. To tell our stories is to invite someone along to help us see what will be next, to invite a participation in writing the future scenes.

From our hero’s meteoric rise to scrolling-by blog fame, to his descent back to the obscurity from which he came. And what will happen next?

Stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “Stories End. Or Stop.”

  1. Thanks, Daniel. As the only remaining reader, I presume I share this privately. ;^)
    Today’s post called to mind that when my mother died, in 2000, I often thought how unfinished the story seemed–no final scene that pulled all the threads together into a bow, no credits and theme song. Rather the story continued in about a year of unsettling dreams until an amazing healing/grieving/resolution scene about a year later. The interesting thing is that while I thought her story simply stopped, her story continues to develop.

    1. Yes. I was thinking about that: even death is not the end of our story as the lives we touched continue to ripple with our influence, at least for a time.

      Beautiful addition to my random musings this morning.

  2. It is initially very unsatisfying and even annoying to have a story stop because we desire a resolution so much.

    But last week I ended my youth group sermon with a parable of the material where I purposely ended just before the climax and refused to spell out some sort of moral lesson. I was trying to emulate Jesus’ parables, the way he pulls his audience into the story so they are forced to imagine, ponder, and learn rather than just gain new information and move on. My hope is that they envision themselves continuing the story in their own lives.

    The kids were very responsive!

  3. We wonder if a story, a ‘narrative,’ is like a memory. What of the memory of the first taste of blood, the blood of Abel? Abel is left to corrupt in the dust, but Cain persists. What of Adamic humanity? Does it abolish the memory of Cain?

    Cainite humanity bears the face of the lupine image, and it desires to eat to excess. How are we to account for this? What story situates the first murder, that initial point of the severe dividing of the self into two warring parts? It is certainly a sick phenomenon that these two parts live together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.