Jean-François Lyotard hit the world upside the head with his 1979 book: The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. In it, he called into question the meta-narrative, which is any overarching narrative that objectively explains the condition and facts of all people in all places. Lyotard was not the first. But he is one of the first that caused people to take notice. He dared to say that the assumptions of the Enlightenment may not have been so useful after all. After all, the Enlightenment worked under the assumption that the use of reason could lead one to objective truth. In reality, it merely gave the guise objectivity.
Other meta-narratives likewise would be guilty. Captialism, Marxism, Even the ideas behind the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were not as objectively true as we believed. Sciences were not immune, being built on the back of modernism, and the meta-narrative that all things could be objectively explained through observation. Religions as well, which had entered the realm of meta-narrative to compete with Enlightenment ideas, found themselves struggling with the concept that there could be no overarching meta-narrative because perspective simply exists. And having lived in a meta-narrative rich mileu for so long, forgot how to return to its non-meta-narrative state.
It was the death of the meta-narrative. But not the death of the narrative. However, since narratives had been pretending to be meta-narratives for so long, post-modern thought tended to abandon those narratives which considered themselves overarching. Deconstruct might be a better word. What was left wasn’t much. People had to cobble together their own personal narratives from whatever they could find. Picking and choosing. So that each person was their own personal story teller.
The problem is that community exists around common narrative. This is not the same as the meta-narrative, which claimed objective truth over all other narratives. A common narrative simply exists to pull people together with something bigger than themselves. They are pulled together by myth. Now, understand correctly, myths are not inherently false. There are true myths. But I use the term because it isn’t the truth that brings us together, but the myth. The story. Myths shape people. People do not shape myths. Else they cease to be myths. Because they cease to unite.
The myth is powerful. The myth defines what has the right to be said and done in the community and the culture. Not the people. Narratives mean that much. Take the narrative of the Portland Trailblazers. That is a myth that unites us into a community. Maybe not as an important community as the one in your neighborhood. And maybe this narrative is a micro-narrative in the long run. But here we are.
And the story shapes us. We do not shape the story. The elders were there to see Bill Walton and Maurice Lucas and Lionel Hollins and Bobby Gross. The winning of the NBA Championship shaped them drastically. Were they participants in the narrative? Only marginally. Their role was to listen, to watch, to cheer when the heroes won the day. But in return, the myth shaped who they are even today.
I saw Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, Kevin Duckworth and Buck Williams. I was there when that story was first told. And I was shaped. Shaped to know what disappointment was in 1990. Shaped to hate the Lakers in 1991. Shaped to resent Michael Jordan in 1992. Shaped to know that teams change, and not always for the better in 1993. Not by anything I did, but by the myth unfolding before me. And our community has passed this myth down. New Blazer fans today are shaped by hearing the myth of Bill Walton. By hearing the myth of Clyde Drexler. In the telling, we form and shape new and future Blazer fans.
But none of us have any right to change the narrative. Not just because the facts would be wrong. That may be a set of problems. But the bigger issue is that it would kill our community. Imagine if there were those who told the false myths of the greatness of Gary Trent. How he won ten championships for the Blazers. The narrative would be changed. And those who followed this new narrative would be radically different than those who follow the narrative passed down to us by our elders. We would not be the same. We would not be community. We might find ourselves in fact as enemies. Because the narrative is that important to us. Even in something as small as sports fandom.
Post modernism does not destroy this narrative we share. We do not have to insist that all people be Blazer fans. We do not have to insist that Blazer fandom is true for all people in all places. We do not have to insist that Blazer fandom is objectively true. But it is who we are. It is how our community is formed. It is sacred to us. And we both protect the narrative and tell the narrative. Because in it’s telling, we are made Blazer fans. And in it’s retelling, we are made Blazer fans again.