6 Reasons Stories are as Important as Anything Else, Ever
I took Dot, my daughter, to go see ‘Wreck It Ralph’ last week on our weekly ‘date’ and I really loved it. Even more than the movie though, I loved the opening featurette short film ‘Paperman’.
It’s a great story and it really inspired me.
When I say inspired, I mean made me cry.
I wasn’t like bawling or anything, I’m not even 100% there were any real tears, but I was moved to tears, I just held them back like a good man in public.
It’s a fantastic little story, I suggest checking it out.
It got me thinking though about how much I love stories. I didn’t always realize this, but the older I get, the more moved I am by a good story. I think there are many reasons but part of it is that I’m growing up (I’m now 26!).
The past few years have been intense. Moving my family back to the states, getting set up as working family and having my second kid (a little funny chubby boy named Hugo that reminds me of winnie the pooh) has been tough in a lot of ways.
Being a dad and a husband (to a beautiful Brit named Sophie) is amazing, but it’s also the scariest roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on.
If your kid or spouse has ever been in any real danger you know what I mean, heck even if they have been in danger in one of your dreams or even imaginations you probably know what I mean.
I think as a I grow and have what at least feels like real conflict, stories have become more moving and important to how I perceive life and what’s important.
I also think that as I have been slowly moving into writing comics and kids books my awareness of the power of a good story has been heightened.
Thinking About Why
I’m the guy on the myers briggs test constantly ‘considering the human race and it’s meaning’ so when it comes to just liking something without knowing why, I’m sort of annoying.
I knew I felt like stories were a worthy cause, but when you grow up in a home outnumbered by thinkers, feelings don’t count for much.
So I have been thinking about why stories are important, and here’s what I got so far:
1. They can Inspire Us
When I’m going through something actually tough, and I hear a story about someone having courage and overcoming something difficult, I am more determined to buckle down and get through it rather than rolling over and being defeated. That’s a powerful tool.
2. They can Remind Us What is Important
My wife and I are addicted to the show ‘Parenthood’ (don’t knock it ‘til you try it). By the end of every episode we are both crying like babies. The thing about that show though is that it always reminds me how important people are.
This reminder reminds me of what usually takes some sort of disaster to remember, and hey, I’ll take an hour over tv any day of the year.
How great is that?
3. They Help Us Tap into Deeper Realities
This is my favorite. I am really drawn to stories that don’t really make sense but give you this visceral pit of the stomach raw emotion (think ‘Spirited Away’). The only way I can describe this emotion is something deep in my spiritual being is being moved.
When your spiritual side is stirring it’s like being awakened to the fact that our 5 senses are not even close to accounting for the most important things in life.
4. They can Give Understanding
Defining reality in straightforward words, without metaphor is impossible.
I find it fascinating that the man who claimed to be the son of God and God incarnate, aka Jesus (you probably read about him…on a bumper sticker or t-shirt perhaps?), was always telling stories (parables) to explain reality and truth.
Like, the guy who claims to have infinite wisdom and complete understanding of everything couldn’t just tell it straight.
Life has to be explained in story. The essence of human experience begs to be explained by the metaphorical nature of story, you know for instance when asked what love is, you often hear: “well it’s like…” because you can’t just say it’s ‘this’ or ‘that’, because it’s so much more!
5. They can Help Us Know We are Not Alone
This point goes in tandem to the above point. It’s hard to articulate feelings, not to mention those amorphous fluffy difficult and intense ones.
Stories are amazing at helping us humans connect. It’s completely true that you can only be you and as hard as you try to transfer your exact thoughts and feeling to another human, it’s impossible.
But story makes the impossible possible. That’s why they can be romantic, they can capture what being in love feels like. They can articulate how it feels to be depressed and when you are moved by a story like that and you are depressed, you’re certain it’s not just you…and that means you’re not alone.
6. They can Help Us Frame Our Reality without Defining it
There is this amazing quote and I can’t find who said it. If you know please tell me! Anyway it goes something like, “Stories convey meaning without making the mistake of trying to define it.”
That articulates a feeling I have had for a long time. It’s hard to love a story that beats it’s moral over your head and I think it’s because it kills the stories greatest strength: the ability to allow the user to interpret.
A great story can mean something very unique and personal to millions of people, and that may just be it’s greatest power.
A great story can be extremely meaningful and life changing without the author smashing you over the head and telling you must feel exactly as they do about life.
When a story does this it helps us as growing humans to understand our relationships, place in the world and our own beliefs.
We are stubborn, we need things to pull the band aid off slowly, are eyes have to adjust slowly to the light or it hurts. Stories CAN do this.
On top of this, with this respect for the audience, a story has it’s only potential of being persuasive. The way view our lives and the world is a very close to immovable thing. Stories have power to sway and move and touch these views.
This is a very important thing.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, so why else are stories important?