The word “Meta” gets thrown around a lot and just so we’re all on the same page as to what it means, I’ll explain simply. A meta discussion is nothing more than a discussion about a topic. Two posts ago, I asked, “What is a Story?” That discussion was a “Meta-story” discussion because we were asking questions about stories.
My follow-up post, “What is a Critique?“, in a manner of speaking is a meta-meta-story discussion because we were discussing things about the way people discuss (i.e. critique) story telling. Theoretically, we can ponder on up the meta-chain of thinking by discussing topics that discuss topics which discuss topics, but as you can see, the thinking gets abstract fairly quickly and I’ve noticed most people don’t like discussing things in the abstract, or at least not as abstractly as a mathematician like myself.
Back in 1931, a mathematician/logician named Kurt Godel (He was Albert Einstein’s best friend late in life and purportedly one of the few minds Einstein thought quite highly of) used statements of mathematics along with meta-statements to show what has famously become known as “The Incompleteness Theorem”. To keep things ultra-simple, this theorem showed that not all statements that can be made in a mathematical framework, have a proof within that framework.
What does that mean? It means that, in math, we can make statements that are true, but we can never prove they are true. Similarly, we can make statements that are false, and never be able to prove they are false.
It was a very disturbing revelation for mathematicians. They had hoped that everything that was true, could be demonstrated to be true and that which is false could be demonstrated false. Imagine spending a large portion of your life on a problem only to find out that it has no solution. That is, unless you completely change mathematics itself.
So why have I been thinking about all this Meta-think?
It’s strange, but I was wondering if story telling was formal enough so that one could write a story that is uncritqueable?
I know. It sounds silly. But if you define your system properly, theoretically Godel’s theorem might apply.
The only problem is that it really can’t. A critique is not a simple bifurcation between approval and disapproval, like mathematical statements being provable or unprovable. A critique is a continuum, a scale of like and dislike. So no matter how much you formalize storytelling, you’ll never be able to write a story that is uncritqueable.
Unless we decide, i.e. create a framework where a critique is either approval or disapproval, then maybe we have a shot.
I know what you’re thinking. We can always say we like every story, and then there are no uncritiqueable ones.
I wouldn’t be satisfied with that. We’d have to be honest in our critiques or else, what’s the point? (Though I’m sure you’re already thinking that thought about this post. See, I told you most people don’t like thinking abstractly.)
So how would an uncritiqueable story read?
I don’t know. Apparently, I wouldn’t be able to make an opinion on the work.
Which, oddly enough, has happened to me before. Perhaps, I’ve already read the uncritiqueable story.
Alright, need a takeaway? A payoff for reading to the end of this post?
I guess my point is, think about the way you think about story telling. What are your thoughts and beliefs about the way a story should be told, and maybe this will improve your story telling.
Next time, when I get a chance to write, I’ll discuss some of my thoughts on story telling itself.