I’ve heard historians say that in the so-called primitive cultures the women bear and raise the children, gather and raise food for the family, and prepare the meals. The men hunt, fish, and tell stories. Many of you will see there is nothing primitive about this except for the lack of hunting and fishing in some areas.
I’ve seen the storytelling instinct alive and well among the males of the species. It is more complete in some members than others. There seem to be some men who are tagged with the storytelling gene and as they get older they develop a loop. I’ve known some men who had a story loop that went from 1917 to 1945 and lasted for hours. (And women probably do the same thing, but I’ve never observed it.)
Listen to them and you will learn something.
As I’ve mentioned a number of times, I am moving out of my math office in Yates Hall. My transition to the dark side has become complete and I will be a full time administrator come early June.
Except for an odd volume here or there tucked under the leg of a table, I’ve finished with the books and have been moving over my papers. The papers are mainly lecture notes for my classes that I’d arranged into 3-ring binders with indexed dividers. These are great for arranging course materials for examinations. I’ve put my daily lectures in order and at the end of each section, I put the exam. You take the binder to class with you, open on the desk, and teach from it until you see that glassy look in the students’ eyes.
I’ve been bringing over five or six 3-ring binders in my red cloth shopping bag. The trouble with the 3-ring binders is they don’t stack well. There is a lot of trapped air in them and they have an irregular shape. They take up way too much space on the shelf compared to books.
In order to fix this, I’ve been taking one notebook at a time and transferring each section to a file and then collecting the files together into what are called “expansion pockets.” I call them those brown things that remind you of an accordion.
I’m almost done with this and have gone through about twenty years worth of stuff. Notebook after notebook, section by section, going many years into the past.
I don’t know about you, but regardless of how organized I get, there is always a point where I get a paper and just stuff it somewhere. Let us call this the miscellaneous effect. “Let’s file this under miscellaneous.”
Soon the miscellaneous file is the biggest one you have and you can’t find anything. I noticed in my old papers that over the years there was less of a tendency to do that. I would like to think that is because of improved character on my part, but I know myself too well for that.
Time takes us in one direction: forward. It’s a scary thing. We trade the time of our life now for information on how best to use future time. That’s a nasty sounding proposition, but that’s the way it is. You want to prepare for the future as best you can so you attempt to impose an order on it. Regardless of how well you’ve refined your system, sometimes you get a piece of paper and you don’t know what to do with it, so you just tuck it away someplace.
Through time, you learn what to do with it. After years pass, you go back through the miscellaneous file and put the pieces of paper where they ought to go. Often that is in a trash can.
I think this is what the storytellers do. They run back over the events in their lives,things that have happened to them they’ve put in the file marked “misc.” They try to find the right place to fit them into their narrative. Part of the purpose of going through the loop and repeating the narrative is to help others who are still in the early part of their own story.
So file this away for the day you find me in the doughnut shop at age 80 running on my loop between the years 1995 and 2028. Listen to me then and maybe you will learn something.
(Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)