Our Need for Better Stories
Little kids love a good story, of that there can be no denying.
My 3 year old grandson Zachary certainly loves his stories. And his favorite response to a really good one (or for that matter, anything he really likes) is the rallying cry, “again, again papa”!
Well, here’s a secret… stories aren’t just for youngsters.
No matter how old we grow, we all need stories we can believe in. Our stories help give our lives meaning and direction, and without meaning and direction… well, how can we hope to find happiness, peace, and contentment?
Story-teller and author Clarissa Pinkola-Estes writes, “Stories set the inner life into motion, and this is particularly important where the inner life is frightened, wedged, or cornered. Story greases the hoists and pulleys, it causes adrenaline to surge, it shows us the way out, down, or up, and for our trouble, it cuts for us fine wide doors in previously blank walls, openings that lead to the dreamland, that leads to love and learning, that lead us back to our own real world life”.
Perhaps, the neatest thing about stories, as grandson Zach already knows, is we can change and shift them as needed. In our current cultural moment, I can’t imagine, I’m the only one wanting a better story to be told. One that changes hearts and minds and sparks the imagination into burning for the harmony that seems to so elude us today.
The key to a good story is all in its framework. And in life, a good framing story can give us direction, values, vision, and inspiration. A well-framed story can become a framework for our lives, telling us who we are, where we come from, what’s going on, where things are going, what we should do next.
If our framing stories tell us that we are in a life-and-death competition with one another, we will have little need for reconciliation, collaboration, or nonviolent resolution to conflict. We’re competitors! Take what you need and the best will win!
Similarly, if our framing stories tell us that the secret to life is to accumulate as much as possible while scoring the maximum amount of pleasure points, as proven by Facebook likes, Instagram stories, and Pinterest pins, well, that seems almost as destructive as the life-and-death competition framework.
Escapist stories of isolation, which are tempting me to run away to the mountains and live far from today’s noise, by definition, prevent the escapees from being agents of positive change; like salt, light and yeast for the rest of us.
However, imagine if our framing stories told us we are free, and responsible beings, made by a good and wise Creator (versus random things evolved from nothingness). And further, imagine if our stories spoke to pursuing virtue, collaboration instead of competition, and peace for and toward all others, including the creatures and the very planet itself.
Imagine how our society might be different, at this very moment, if such was our framing story. A story very different from the “news” as to how half the population (regardless of what side of political center you favor) are moronic idiots in need of re-education.
20 some years ago, author Brian McLaren began urging his largely Christian audiences to embrace a “more healing and compassionate story by which to live”. He wrote, “in these dangerous times, our whole planet, now needs more than ever, a good story to live in, and live by.” True words even today.
By the way, for Christians, the map of Jesus’ life is the map of humanity; life brings forth birth, then everyday life, betrayal, abandonment, death, resurrection, and new life. In the end, all of life comes full circle; we return to where we started; “life”.
The challenge I offer each of us, from today forward… find and tell more framing stories to all who will listen. Framing stories that will uplift, and envision peace and well-being as not just possible, but perfectly normal.
The stories we tell and believe in today, will determine what sort of world we will ultimately live in. More importantly, our stories will determine the world we leave for the grandkids.
As to Zachary, I know he’s expecting his world to be a grand story. One to which the only response can be his exalted cry, “again, again papa!”
Reference: Center for Action and Contemplation