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Storytelling and Reconciliation

By       Message Gifford Keen     Permalink
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storycon.org Headlined to H4 5/13/15

Author 117

Originally Published on OpEdNews

Follow up on Rob Kall's interview with Sam and Gifford Keen about their book Prodigal Father Wayward Son.


We live in an age of simple stories -- Us vs. Them, good vs. evil, America vs. Iran, Jews vs. Arabs. So long as we cleave to such narratives there can never be political or personal reconciliation. Only more conflict.

On a personal level, this propensity towards simple stories colors and distorts the relationships between fathers and sons. From Oedipus to Hamlet to Luke Skywalker, the father/son relationship is fraught with complexity and conflict. Yet, so many of the stories that divide fathers and sons are unbelievably simplistic.

In my new book, Prodigal Father Wayward Son, written with my father, Sam Keen, we explore the power of storytelling, both as an unconscious, mythic force that estranges fathers and sons, and a conscious prescription for reconciliation of long term, intractable alienation.

 

The book begins with an account of a terrible argument. At the time, I was grown, a father, retired from a professional career, my own man. Yet the basic personal dynamics between my father and I hadn't changed fundamentally since I was eleven, when he abandoned me.

Here's an excerpt from that scene:

SAM

I was due to return home that afternoon, so we decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at Cafe Pasqual's. After huevos rancheros and cafe latte, we were walking down

Water Street
.

GIF

And then it happened.

"So," you asked, "what are you going to do now that you're not working?" It was casually said, but there was a nasty gleam in your eye, a critical tone in your voice.

This seemly innocent comment struck deep, but you might as well have said, "What kind of a worthless man sits around the house meditating and taking care of the kids? It doesn't matter how much money you have, you'll never be a Real Man -- like me -- until you do something worthwhile in the world."

"You've been feeding me this same crap since I was a kid," I said. "I quit my job because I hated it; and unlike you, I wanted to spend time with my children."

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Gifford Keen is fifty four years old and describes himself as a retired software geek, reluctant landlord, and aspiring novelist. He has a liberal arts degree from St. John's College in Santa Fe and has had a variety of careers: from apple picker (more...)
 

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