Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Chase Ishii, and for the next four months, I will be your new best friend. (If you are reading this next to your current best friend, don’t worry. Just breathe slowly and act natural, and they won’t have a clue. Unless, of course, they are reading this with you, in which case, you have been replaced as well, so everything is fine.)
Some of you may know me as “the Thursday Poop Newspaper Guy” from last volume (which is actually one of the better nicknames I’ve received. Much better than Squishy Ishii…I immediately regret putting that in print.) But with a new volume and a new day comes a new theme. This column will not be a traditional Opinions column, but you will forgive me for it (because that’s what best friends do.)
I will not be addressing controversial topics, such as politics, the economy or whether or not the E! Channel is ruining America’s reputation more than any act of foreign intervention ever could. (It is.)
The older I get, the more I realize how gray black-and-white issues really are and how important it is to hear all sides (especially the minority) before taking a firm stance. (So, if I ever do write an overly political column, it probably means I have been kidnapped by the North Koreans and am writing at gunpoint. Rather than assessing the persuasiveness and rhetorical strength of my argument, you should write a letter to your congressman petitioning for my release.)
Ivan Illich, an Australian philosopher, wrote, “Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into our future so that we can take the next step…If you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story.”
This column will be about telling that alternative story. I believe that with everything we do — our actions, our conversations, our attitudes and our relationships — we are all telling a story to the rest of the world about who we are, what we believe and what we value. It is not a question of if we are telling a story, but what kind of story we are telling. Is it exciting? Does it have twists and tensions? Is there a happy ending? Is my story worth reading?
And what better way to talk issues of identity, belief and worth than through stories and art? Self-awareness is the goal. We can answer the “who?” and “why?” and “how?” and “what next?” questions much better if we bring the same level of analysis to our own lives that we bring to stories and artistic endeavors. I hope that the honesty and vulnerability in this column will allow for a dialogue, a response in addition to an opinion, on the more abstract and more personal aspects of life, the kind of things you really only share with a best friend.
In maintaining the dialogue, I invite, encourage and beg you to use your voice. If you have opinions or questions about my views, email me. If you want to know why I don’t drink or how I can be “intellectual” and still a Christian, or if you want a 15-page single-spaced explanation of why the Angels are the greatest baseball team in the MLB, email me. If you have your own story you want to share that you think can change (or shift) society, email me. This column is a platform, and your voice in the conversation is the difference between “talking at” and “talking to” the Stanford community. And I’m all ears.
Half Invented refers to the way we experience the world. Without getting into the metaphysics of it all (mainly because I don’t understand the metaphysics of it all), your reality is just that — your reality. It is the way you, and you alone, perceive the world. We hypothesize to fill in the inevitable gaps we can never really know — the motivations of others, their perceptions of us and what we think is “capital-T Truth” — and then we respond accordingly. We may be right or wrong in these assumptions, but either way, it’s all we really have to go on. And in that way, our lives — the stories we experience and the stories we tell — are always half-invented.
See you next week, new best friend. I’m looking forward to it.
If you want your new best friend to be your new more-than-just-friends, email Chase at ninjaish “at” stanford “dot” edu. Cheers!