The Arc of the Story

The graduate school where I taught in Taiwan hosted two-or-three annual lecture series to give inservice training to clergy and to bolster alumni connection to the alma mater. The speakers were scholars from elsewhere in Taiwan or from out of the country. Across the 14  years that I worked there I met many, and translated for several. They came from India, England, Canada, Scotland, the USA and the Taiwanese diaspora around the globe. Sometimes their topics weren’t directly applicable to the lives and work of clergy in Taiwan, and sometimes I learned nothing of immediate importance to me, but from time to time something stuck that came in handy later in life.

Once a guy came with an extra agenda. The school where he taught in the USA was in a fund-raising mode, and there was a rich donor in Taiwan whose wife had a connection to it. school. He (or his school’s development director) parlayed connections and calendars to get this guy to come speak to us, ostensibly about “Worship Arts”.   What he gave us was not what people expected, and maybe it wasn’t all that useful. But he fulfilled the commission, and while in town he connected with the donor, too.

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What I learned from him was about the “arc of the story”, which he explained in terms of a baseball diamond.  That was new to me, and possibly also to the people gathered for the lectures, but I don’t think many of these preachers with their eyes on the quiddities of bible verses could lift their eyes to see even the story, much less its arc. I know that I couldn’t. 

But in retirement…, now I watch an hour of television each evening. Just an hour (unless the program is longer). As I write in 2020 my wife and I are watching Sanditon, a riff on Jane Austen. We finished the 6th of 8 episodes this evening, and I can see how things are going because of having, years ago, sat through a series of lectures in which its arc was presented. 

 

I wonder how much other mental fluff I’ve gathered over the years will turn out to be useful in such years as remain to me?

 

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan. 

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