Stories

Last night on NPR I heard the snippet of a story about a blind man taking his baby child out for a walk around the block in one of those front-carrier slings. He spoke of how nervous and fearful he was. Countless memories of walking front-first into poles and walls and people. The last line I heard was “Twenty minutes later, we were only at the corner of the block… Our house is only two houses down from the corner.”

Something about stories makes them incredibly moving. If you’ve heard or watched This American Life or read any collection of good essays, you will know that stories do not even necessarily have to have any real point or moral to be powerful and poignant. Of course, humans have known this since the beginning. We started passing down all of our important information through stories long before there was the written word.

The Mission Year folk were teasing Aleksander, their Norwegian teamate, about how crazy his country’s folklore was. Tiny old men you could fit in a horn, polar bears kidnapping girls and marrying them, and the like. When we mentioned that our stories only consisted of older European folktales cleaned up and animated by Disney, he commented, “Your country just isn’t old enough.”

It’s true. We are a country without stories. Well, that isn’t true. We have a rich history of independence and war and immigration and mixing of cultures, all of which may one day crystallize into a psychedelic mythology, but as of now, we make do. That is all somewhat off topic though.

I feel that in the search for a formula for happiness, a science of making do, we have forgotten that life is not math, it is Art. We are always looking for a How and we choose to neglect the Why. Psychology, therapy, money, education, self-help, mediation can all be tools to help us make a living, but is Life simply pure addition? Or is there synergy, is there more?

Isn’t that why we write? Or sing, or draw, or photograph and document? Why we dance and create? Aren’t we all trying to tell each other our story? I once got carried away while reading a story, and ended up on a farm. A story of runners in Central America made me take off my shoes and take off down the street. Tales of unbridled (literally, freed, unleashed) love and strength, fiction or not, are more inspiration to grow and learn and press on than any amount of education in morality or philosophy or nagging could ever be.

There are stories that amuse and stories that sadden. Stories that bring laughter and ones that bring hope. There are stories that change everything. There’s the one with a strong father, a confused son, a garden, a sword, a broken family and pain; a baby turned miracle worker, an untimely and gruesome death, unexpected Life and more joy and beauty than could ever have been imagined.

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~ by justinhong on November 29, 2010.

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