Stories for Indigestion

Writer-director Rodrigo García, whose new film Raymond & Ray is now on Apple TV+, goes back to the very roots of storytelling.

I grew up in a home where storytelling was considered of paramount importance. Whether it was a novel, a movie, an anecdote, a joke or a lie, the respect and admiration for anything well told reigned supreme. My father, best known as the author of the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, often repeated his mantra: “There is nothing better than something well written.” Of books like Don Quixote, both testaments of the Bible, the Quran, Moby Dick, War and Peace, Mrs. Dalloway and Oedipus Rex, he would simply say: “Everything worth knowing is in them.”

Here are two stories I was told or read about …

The first:
Apparently, there was nothing, when suddenly, unannounced, an almighty and omnipresent Being, whose nature we do not know and could never understand, created everything in just six days. The sky and the earth and the seas and the stars and every animal and plant, from platypus to artichoke. He (She? They?) created the sound of the rain, the hues of dusk, the fury of volcanoes and the way the breeze feels on your face. This was one poet creator. And finally, seeing that it was all good, They created a creature in Their own image, and imbued him with an immortal soul. Think about that. An immortal soul.

But then, fearing the creature would be lonely, They created a partner for him. Here’s how: While the man slept, They took a rib from him and created woman. A woman from a rib. OK, Boomer … Strict house rules were established and promptly broken, and things began to fall apart. There was betrayal and punishment, and persons were banished. I mean, this is, like, Day 10, and already personalities have clashed, dreams have been crushed, and women have been found guilty (which set a much-respected precedent, apparently). Then, that first couple had two children, and one of those children killed the other out of jealousy. We’re talking one deity and four humans. This isn’t even Part 1 – this is Page 4. Then, from this very problematic group, flowed the vast torrent of people that brought us love, cathedrals, rice noodles, war, music, injustice, paintings of water lilies, babies laughing, suicide, the World Cup, sexting, banking, deodorant, and an incalculable number of individuals, all the way to Malala and Donald Trump.

The second story:
Apparently, there was nothing, when suddenly, unannounced, an unimaginably large explosion created an infinite universe, the galaxies, stars, and planets. I am told that, in fact, not one but an infinite number of universes were created, in which play out all the possible outcomes of all possible events, stories and destinies, forever, in every permutation. And thus, time began its enigmatic journey. An explosion created time. Mind-blowing.

Eventually, on one of the infinite number of planets, molecules started to clump together and then, surprisingly, they began to replicate, in their own image. We call this life now. And from these tiny clumps of molecules developed other creatures, animals and plants, not over six days but over billions of years in a stunningly slow process. Until huge animals, dinosaurs, came to rule the planet. Then, one fine day, an asteroid, coming from what we now call either left field or the clear blue sky, crashed against the planet and the resulting mega dust storm killed off the dinosaurs. In the chaos – listen to this – little furry creatures that we call mammals started thriving. Here’s a side note, we call them mammals because – are you sitting down? – they feed their babies with milk from their breasts. What? From these little creatures with their hairy boobs flowed the vast torrent of people with noble or misguided passions that have brought us all the way here, to Naomi Osaka and Vladimir Putin.

Both accounts resulted in astonishing marvels – like love as an enormously powerful force among even strangers, death as a common but forever stunning occurrence – or the ability to walk in high heels.

These two accounts, you couldn’t make them up if you were on mushrooms. I have neither enough science in me, nor enough faith, to fully process either of them. But as stories, I can swallow them whole, and I let them nourish me. In fact, they make me. How are we to assimilate anything except through story? How do we process the past, for example, our parents’ childhoods, their courtship and our own childhood, except through story? We even edit things out, like you do in good storytelling, like the exact details of the night our parents made us. Stories help us digest the facts and events of our short and puzzling time on this planet.

And on the subject of reconciling these stories, the words of my teenage daughter come to mind, called out for all to hear as she was rolled away, doped up, into a major surgery: “God bless science!”

Featured image image by Briony Douglas / Apple.

Rodrigo García is a celebrated award-winning director, producer and writer who has directed the multiple Academy Award-nominated film Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close, Mother and Child, starring Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Samuel L. Jackson, and Nine Lives, starring Holly Hunter, Glenn Close, Dakota Fanning and Robin Wright. His new film Raymond & Ray, a family drama starring Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor, is now streaming on Apple TV+. García also wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her,” which won the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes in 2000, Last Days in the Desert, starring Ewan McGregor, and Four Good Days, starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis. He has also worked on TV shows including The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, In Treatment and Big Love. His memoir, A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes, was published in July 2021 by HarperVia.