2:4–Response to Question 1

At the end of this lesson, you will find a list of questions. Read each of the questions and select one that you would like to answer for your blog assignment.  

In order to respond to the assignment in this lesson, I chose question 1, which examines more closely the two creation stories described by King in his book The Truth About Stories.  The first part of this question is why does King create two distinct and separate dichotomies for the reader to examine the creation stories he provides?  I think his reasoning goes back to Chamberlin’s description that humans are “animals who have language” (13).  Chamberlin argues that it is this basic understanding that has caused human beings to develop categories of civilized and barbaric based on language and its usages.  In the case of these two stories, one of the dichotomies created is that of co-operation and competition.  Based on King’s descriptions, for our purposes, the story of “The Earth Diver” is the story of co-operation, and also the “barbaric” story.  The other creation story is the bible’s “Genesis,” and is the story of competition, and also the “civilized” creation story.

“Genesis” Story

“The Earth Diver” Story

The second part of this question asks why King emphasized the believability of one story over the other, in this case the “Genesis” story, which he told with an authoritative voice, as opposed to “The Earth Diver” (this is a video of a version of the creation story) story, which was told with a storytellers voice. The last question inquires as to why King presents these stories with the basis of analysis on oppositions in a row of dichotomies; what is he trying to show his readers?  In order to begin to discuss these questions, I think it is important to examine believability, which ties into the categories of “co-operation” and “competition.” European culture is one based on hierarchy and competition within that hierarchy.  They are also the “civilized” story, and the one told in an authoritative voice. “The Earth Diver” is the story with “co-operation” and also the “barbaric” and non-European story.  “Genesis” is a written story, “The Earth Diver” is an oral story.  King points out many dichotomies in order to show that there are no true parallel divisions. In our previous readings, Chamberlin explained that ceremony can be a connector between the two basic dichotomies of the “civilized” and the “barbaric.”  Religious ceremonies, churches, weddings, and court process all are examples of modern practices that rely on oral traditions and ceremonies–things that belong to the category of “barbaric,” and therefor disrupt the category of “civilized” through their inclusion.

I think King’s overall goal in pointing out and then disrupting these dichotomies is to illustrate that the supposed way of determining differences is false.  Each supposed dichotomy has influences from the other.  Much of the racism in our society, and abuse of one people at the hands of another is based on supposed dichotomies.  Us vs them.  The “civilized” vs the “barbaric.”  I think that by detailing these issues, and forcing his readers to analyze them, King is showing how human beings cannot be defined using such black and white terms.  Neither can the culture of those human beings be defined with dichotomies.  There is no “barbaric” or “civilized” as a singular term for any culture.  People are a mix; their stories, ceremonies and traditions are a rich history.

Works Cited

“Archives.” Welcome to COHDS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2016.

Chamberlin, J. Edward.  If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?. Vintage Canada Edition, 2004. Print.

gyundt. “Earth Diver.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlOierP0iGg. Youtube. 13 Mar 2013. Web.  17 Jun 2016.

“Skywoman falling.” Digital image.  Iroquois Creation Story I, n.d. Web. 17 Jun 2016.

“The second creation story.” Digital image.  Conversation in Faith Weblog, 8 Oct 2008.  Web. 17 Jun 2016.

8 thoughts on “2:4–Response to Question 1

  1. Hi Linda,

    I’m wondering if you could elaborate on the first part of your response? I don’t understand how you are relating language to the dichotomy of civilized/barbaric and cooperation/competition stories. Both of the stories were given to us in English and both of the stories were written down, so how does language factor in? Can you explain?

    I do agree with your analysis of why King presents these stories in such a comparative way. It allows us to realize that there is civility and barbarity in both versions. I’d also add that it highlights the believably (or lack thereof) of both stories. Despite the authoritative voice and the fact that the Genesis story is known and believed by millions of Christian followers, seeing it presented next to another creation story that seems unbelievable, points to the fallacies in the religious version. It makes Chamberlin’s idea of story as an intersection of imagination and reality a little clearer.

    • Hi Julia,

      No worries about the name slip, I’m afraid I’ll do the same thing at some point! I wasn’t trying to relate language so much explain cooperation/competition as another set of dichotomies that could fall under barbaric/civilized, where cooperation in this case is barbaric, and competition is civilized. I was thinking along the lines of political systems, where competition between people is the “preferred” over cooperation.

      Thank you for your response,

  2. Hi Julia,

    Thanks for your excellent post. The visuals are especially helpful to compare the stories.

    What I got out of it is a “chain of authority” in the European creation story, which is absent in the First Nation creation story. In the former a definitive figure with total authority, God, created the world and human (among everything else), and humans are ordered to obey only God and rule everything else. This creates the definitive authority of humans over animals, plants, nature, and land. The First Nation story, as you have pointed out, is about cooperation. There is not definitive authority.

    Eager to hear your thoughts!

    – John

  3. Hi Julia,

    I’m curious to hear why is it you think people are forced to choose between the two dichotomies, instead of taking both into consideration? I wrote my post on this particular question as well, and I think we live in such a restrictive society that’s trained us to think in binary terms (all or nothing, me or you, black or white). As a result, we lose sight of what’s important in this context, which is that there is validity in all stories, that people are entitled to whichever perspective they choose to hold, and that no one has the right to belittle another’s story just because it doesn’t work for them.

    I’d love to hear your answer!


  4. Really insightful post, Gillian. I was wondering if you thought there were cases where dichotomies do work to show differences in something? Do you think they could ever be useful in this regard, or do you always think they influence one another? Would you be able to give examples for and/or against? I’m curious to hear what you think!

  5. Hi Gillian,

    Thanks for your post! You make some important points about the importance of contrasting dichotomies in order to reveal the implicit assumptions and biases that we carry as humans. As we have been discussing throughout the term, I believe that the idea of who has power and “authority” (as you mentioned) can sometimes cause us to “buy into” or provide more value to some stories over other ones. I also agree that in highlighting the power of these dichotomies, Chamberlin unravels the way we fixate on categorical differences, and use them to justify how we treat other people. As humans, we seem to obsess over categories – these can be important for some aspects of our understanding of the world, but they have also been a major flaw in our species. By making assumptions based on our own values rather than understanding how important diversity is, we have made some truly fatal and tragic mistakes. However, I think that we can use Chamberlin’s writing as a way to learn to overcome these assumptions, challenge how we understand the world, and recognize the value of many diverse stories.

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