by Cynthia Ray
Did you see that gorgeous full moon last night? Most of us live in cities, and spend a good deal of time in front of computers and televisions. Our connection with the skies, with nature and with each other is mediated, one step removed, unless we take time to notice, to connect, to look deeper.
Lately, I’ve been marveling at the intricacy of the universe we live in. In fact, my fascination with the geometry of the universe could be called an obsession. The Golden Mean, or Fibanacci Sequence is everywhere. From the spinning galaxies, to the whorl of our fingerprints, to the tiny shell lying on a beach.
The cycles, the spirals, the movements of the planets and the patterns they create draw me into their centers and back out again.Not only does nothing stand still, but everything moves in complex geometric patterns of amazing beauty. We all fit into these cosmic patterns, but the patterns are bigger than we are and we may not always perceive our place in them.
Events, processes, and stories move in spirals, and in fractal designs. And yet, we tend to expect things to move linearly from a beginning point, along a line called progress to an end point. We expect everything to go according to plan. Thanks heavens few things ever do!
While we are in the middle of our life, it seems chaotic and messy, but if we could rise up 10 thousand feet and look at the patterns of our interactions with one another, of our experiences, perhaps we would see an exquisite, perfect design being woven.
What does all of this have to do with writing? Everything. Stories that progress linearly and predictably from point A to point B put us to sleep. Stories that move in spirals and fractal unfoldment fascinate us. Think of flashbacks, stories that begin at the end and then move to the beginning, stories where actions of one character change the course of another character, who changes the course of another and so on, the structure becomes more than the sum of its parts.
Another way to describe, or visualize the hero’s journey is Aufheben or Aufhebung. It is a German word with several seemingly contradictory meanings, including “to lift up”, “to abolish”, “cancel” or “suspend”, or “to sublate”. The term has also been defined as “abolish”, “preserve”, and “transcend”. Here we see the heros journey presented as a spiraling to resolution. The multiple meanings of the word, offer many different approaches to how the story may progress. In fact, fractal storytelling describes a process where there are acts within acts, within acts and the structure of the story cascades into an unending pattern.
Mike Bonifer, describes fractal storytelling in this way: “Fractals define and connect the story elements in a network. They do not, however, CHANGE the story, and change is where participation is most powerful. So to be effective as human beings and organizations, we need to understand the nature of fractals AND the phenomena of their changing, and of how new fractals, new patterns, emerge. Fractals are helpful for the growth and expansion of the networked narrative. They do not, however, account for the change in the narrative, i.e. when and why the pattern breaks and becomes a new pattern. i.e. No fractal can explain or account for the existence of another fractal, any more than Lolita can explain the existence of Phantom of the Opera. And yet, there is a scenario out there in the universe of possibilities, where Lolita and the Phantom fall in love and make music of their own. So we need more than narrative fractals, along with nodes and influencers, to define what’s happening and where, in the network, are the opportunities for anything but bigness and expansion. We need Exploration and Newness, too. This means new stories, or at least new fractals composed of old ones.”
This different way of thinking about storytelling has given me the courage to venture into some unexplored writing territory. I hope it sparks some inspiration for you as well. If you are as intrigued as I am, you can find out more about it here .
And I will leave you with a picture of Broccolli, because even Broccoli grows in fractal spirals-and it is delicious.