Heading Towards Being Present or Eventual Stagnation
A realignment of purpose that sends the mind in a new direction
In the previous article on A Holistic Understanding of Premise, the concept of applying an emotional state to a narrative argument found balance in aligning the self with the outside world. As many can attest, maintaining this state is an act of impossible defiance that far too often finds one off the intended path. Appreciate the differential between imbalance and outcome, and one begins to open themselves up to an entirely different story—that of being out-of-alignment.
With the Dramatica theory of story, we see two critical dynamics of narrative that help us appreciate the narrative’s state of emotion: Story Outcome and Story Judgment. Remember that a complete narrative functions as an analogy to a single human mind trying to resolve an inequity—that single mind carries a state of emotion, and the juxtaposition of these two dynamics crystallizes that emotion for the Audience.
The Linear Perspective
To the Linear thinker, a Success/Bad story is one of Severity. While the efforts to resolve the story’s problem workout for everyone, they come at considerable cost to the Main Character’s personal sense of well-being. The Dark Knight, Unforgiven, and the first season of Westworld all share this bittersweet ending tragic for the individual.
The other side of bittersweet finds Failure in the Story Outcome and Good in terms of the Story Judgment. BlacKKKlansman, The Wife, and the pilot episode of the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel tell stories of Virtue—where things don’t work out for everyone else, but end well for the primary character.
Severity and Virtue do little for the Holistic. Like the all-out Triumph discussed in the previous article, there is no judgment, and no meaningful end for the Holistic, just an ending for now.
With that in mind, one turns to the Flow of Power throughout the Holistic Storymind--is the mind newly Present, or in a new state of Not Growing? In contrast to the Steadfast Holistic stories, these stories of the mind abandoning an old path for a new one introduce presence or inertia to the mind.
If the Changed/Success/Good story finds the Holistic in alignment, then the Changed/Success/Bad and Changed/Failure/Good stories find this same person out of sorts with their environment as the result of their new intentions—one direction finding presence, the other finding stagnation.
Venturing into the Doldrums
Changed/Holstic/Success/Bad stories differ from the Triumph/Alignment story in that the self is left in a state of emotional unrest—the whole self. The Holistic deals with the totality of experience—one tiny imbalance is enough to warrant a condition of misalignment. The balance between the objective and the subjective is so out-of-alignment in these stories that a state of low emotional vibration consumes the individual--or what many commonly refer to as "a case of the doldrums."
Note that this new emotional state is not presented as a consequence of failed action. The Premise/Storyform represents the totality of the experience, not merely the end result. The process of running through that experience plays a permanent role in sharing what it feels like to face that conflict.
Yes, resolution in the outside world might be found—a “Goal” may be achieved—but to the Holistic, that sense of not vibing with the outside world continues to be a source of irritation.
For instance, the Premise for Election paints a picture of the Holistic's new encounter with emotional stagnation:
PremiseLooking out for others in order to indulge temptations keeps you from growing, leaving you feeling stuck and unfulfilled.
With a new path the Holistic juggles both external and internal concerns, played out within the Premise with the juxtaposition of both Character and Plot:
With this arrangement of key narrative Storypoints mixed with emotional stagnation, one sees the entirety of what it means to think holistically.
The Totality of Experience
The Linear sees Outcome and Judgment as coming after the story plays out—a linear progression of cause and effect with the result that suggests that this happened because of that. Give up this Element or gain that Element, and you will achieve that Outcome.
The Holistic sees Judgment and Outcome as an ongoing process that arises throughout the story. This is why many Holistic thinkers can sense and possibly spoil a show’s ending for the Linear thinker. To the Holistic, the Outcome and Judgment are present in each and every scene. To the Linear thinker, the end hasn’t happened yet and to guess is merely another case of “intuition” getting in the way of a good show.
The story of Election argues that, while indulging temptations may help you look out for others, the process keeps you stagnant and unfulfilled—a. new direction that leaves you out of sorts with the world around you.
Finding a New Sense of Presence
The next set of narrative potentials looks to those stories where the Holistic mind begins to find alignment with truth, but still fails to align seamlessly with the outside world. The path is known and sense of presence enters the mind—but it is a path not yet fully embraced.
With a story of Virtue, the Linear thinker sees a Failure as worth the good feelings it brings to the individual. To the Holistic balance is everything, and while one might feel themselves feeling a bit more present, the lack of resolution in the external continues to leave the self and the world out of alignment. To the Holistic, nothing is “solved", only a level of balance.
The path of balance is primary.
Spike Jonze’s techno-romance film her offers a look at this higher state of vibration:
PremiseOpening yourself up to a greater awareness of others manages unexpected circumstances, while sending you down the path of becoming more present.
A bit wordy—but when is it ever easy to describe the Holistic experience in a few simple words?
Here we see a Premise statement on the way towards being in eventual Balance (a Holistic/Changed/Success/Good story), but definitely feeling a sense of being more Present. The path forward lies in a new direction for the Character while managing the issues of the Plot:
The striking difference between this new sense of Presence and one of Balance is the indication of an intention towards balance, but one not yet achieved. This shift foretells of a greater alignment—a path for one to continue down if they are to find a relative peace between self and the outside world.
Breaking Down the Doldrums
As with every Premise, meaning consists of the juxtaposition between an Objective Premise Method, or Plot Component, and a Subjective Premise Element, or Character Component. With the Holistic, the Objective looks to an Issue in the Objective Story Throughline, while the Subjective focuses on a critical Element buried deep within the Main Character’s Throughline.
While the Holistic story of Balance introduces a third component to balance out the subjective, or Character, element, these stories leave that element for another day. With the Venturing into Doldrums story, that personal alignment falls out of sync with the realities of the outside world, making the absence of the Balance Element crucial towards expressing its meaning.
To the Holistic, relationships are everything—more critical than Goals, and certainly more compelling than Consequences. Without that key balancing agent of the third element, these Premises express a palpable sense of ennui.
This focus on the relationship carries over into any story featuring a move towards emotional stagnation. Consider The Social Network:
PremiseMoving to the front of the line in order to produce something keeps you from growing, leaving you feeling stuck and unfulfilled.
The Storymind of that film is a mind constantly out-of-sync with everyone around it. While that level of vibration leads to the creation of the world’s largest and most pervasive social network, it fails to ultimately fulfill oneself—only indicating a direction one should take to bridge the chasms between others.
The balance of a mind driven to produce something (a Method of Production) with the external implications of moving to the front of the line (a Method of Expediency) manifests emotional stagnation--a place where the self can't quite gel with the outside world.
Breaking Down Presence
The Path of Presence story takes a different route as it tells of the individual on the way towards greater balance. While it indicates the possibility of balance, accurate alignment still awaits.
Leave No Trace is a film that scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, yet virtually no one knows about. The reason? A Holistic Premise that advocates eventual fulfillment over solving an unsolvable problem:
PremiseOpening yourself up to moving on manages having to give someone constant attention, while sending you down the path of becoming more present.
In contrast to the Premises for The Social Network and Election--which focused on the Element keeping one stagnant, the Premise for Leave No Trace indicates the Element at the heart of a new direction.
Again, the intention to align the self opens up the mind to be more receptive of staying present—and in doing so, reveals the point of disconnect between self and the external world.
Encoding Bad Vibes
The Linear mind operates in an area of Goal and Consequence, Problem and Solution. The Holistic prefers Frequency and Vibration, Inequity and Equity, Staying Present or Stagnation (Not Growing). Balance is always the intended direction, a path taken when the outcome is unknown.
These two additional thematic arguments—the Changed/HolisticSuccess/Bad Emotional Stagnation Premise and the Changed/HolisticFailure/Good High Path of Presence Premise—explore an area essential to the Holistic experience.
By presenting these new additions to Subtext, we hope to honor that process and draw those more Holistic-minded writers closer to their story.