Author John Kotre
The Work of John Kotre
Lives, Memories, Legacies, Stories - The Work of John Kotre

Into the Cloud

"You do not know how the wind blows," says Ecclesiastes.  Nor, I would add, how the internet does.  So I heed his advice: "In the morning, sow your seed.  Until evening, do not cease from labour.  For of any two things you do not know which will succeed."

This web site commends to the wind—and to the “cloud” they call the internet—much of the work I have done on lives, memories, legacies, and stories.  Some of the books can be now read in their entirety--free of charge--through Google Books.  Most of the others allow substantial partial views.  The complete Seasons of Life Television Series is available at no charge, as are the Seasons of Life Short Stories in Audio.  Certain articles have been posted as PDFs.

"There is nothing new under the sun," was Ecclesiastes' lament.  But the poet Wislawa Szymborska, a Nobel laureate, would have none of it.  “You yourself were born new under the sun,” she tells Ecclesiastes . . .

And the poem you created is also new under the sun, since no one wrote it down before you.  And all your readers are also new under the sun, since those who lived before you couldn't read your poem.  And that cypress you're sitting under hasn't been growing since the dawn of time. . . .

And, Ecclesiastes, I'd also like to ask you what new thing under the sun you're planning to work on now?  A further supplement to the thoughts you've already expressed?  Or maybe you're tempted to contradict some of them now.  Have you taken notes yet, do you have drafts?  I doubt you'll say, "I've written everything down, I've got nothing left to add."


The Idea Waiting To Be Born

So there are indeed things to add.  The Idea Waiting To Be Born is an extended parable based on the Ten Oxherding Pictures of Zen Buddhism.  I tell the story as a Westerner who answered an invitation to simply look at the pictures.  The story that resulted is one in which Spirit does not come down from above but rises up from below.  It’s about the creativity in each of us, which reflects the creativity of a universe which waited some 13.7 billion years to generate ideas.  There was a secret in that original singularity.

After reading the story, you can peruse the rest of the blog in which it appears.  It’s built around an earlier an even longer parable called The Story of Everything.


The Story of Everything

The Story of Everything

The Story of Everything is a tale of creation and evolution—a “philosophical parable,” if you will.  It’s about quarks and bugs and spirits and stars, not to mention science, religion, and philosophy.  So it’s longer than most parables.  But it’s not that complicated.  There's a Speaker.  There's a Story.  Each has a life.  Each makes a journey.   “You come from the breath of God,” a boy is told at the beginning of his life.  “You come from stardust,” he says at the end.  But his is not the last word.


Ancestral Help

In White Gloves I described autobiographical memory as both a keeper of archives and a maker of myth, one laboring by day, the other by night.  Together, they fashion a life narrative that reveals a self, even creates a self.

In recent visits to the Universities of Arizona and Sao Paulo I tried to illustrate how we put memory to another use: creating ancestors.  The story of the white gloves is a perfect example: here memory creates a grandfather with a soul for art, a soul he sacrifices for his family.  In the seven-minute audio clip “A Family Remembers,” a family’s four generations make a hero of their deceased great-grandfather, an epic of his escape from massacre.  “This guy survived that great attack,” a descendant says.  “I’m going to survive.”  In the storytelling you can hear the mythmaker at work, creating ancestral help.


Is It True?

There comes a point when listening to a life story when you ask yourself, how much of this is true?  Truth is not a simple notion, as I suggested in a recent talk.  Historical truth is not narrative truth, the keeper of archives not the maker of myth.

Each kind of truth has its own methods of verification.  The critical moment for narrative truth comes when the story you’ve fashioned is shown to its teller.

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Books by John Kotre