“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”-John Steinbeck
I agree. One story. We are all made of story. Our small stories are contributory streams leading to the river of who we are. And our individual stories flow together, interact and make new stories. If life is story, there must be a Storyteller, but I’ll come back to that. Steinbeck was pretty close to the Truth here. I believe that all of our stories are made up of the struggles that Steinbeck describes. I would probably word it differently, not better mind you. I would say that our stories fall into a few broad categories. One might be our struggle against other people’s selfishness. The classic overcoming evil with good story. Another would be overcoming our own selfishness; a classic redemption story. There is our struggle against a dangerous world, which is our classic war against entropy as all things break down towards chaos. To me, it all points to a single story of an age old struggle against selfishness (evil) and for redemption. I told you I’d come back to it. It certainly fits my understanding of Christ and the Gospel. But truthfully? I digress, that’s not where I am chasing this stream today.
I have been reading Patrick Rothfuss’ Wise Man’s Fear, a fantasy novel and the second in his series. One of the people groups that he created, the Edema Ruh, value stories above everything but family and freedom. If they desire to take you in to their clan they ask you for your stories. How cool is that?
Wouldn’t it be great if the next time you spent time with your friends, the price of companionship was the sharing of stories? How much better would we know each other? What if the next time you are out with your husband or wife or significant other, instead of a movie, you went out to eat or just to a park and told stories, really told stories? I’m not talking about relating facts, I mean sharing the moment of the story, how you felt, what the sky looked like, really share it. What about with your friends? How would your friendships change if every time you sat down together, story sharing was the first item of business? And what of our children? Does your home have a storytelling tradition? Share stories, read stories, make up stories, but live inside the stories for a while, let that be your television. Use dinner, it makes a great setting.
Problem is, we won’t do it. In our selfishness we hoard our stories; out of fear? out of shame? I don’t know. And even when a few have the guts to let them out, we don’t listen. Storytelling requires someone to hear the stories or it’s just wind. We don’t listen because we don’t love. Or rather, we are so involved in our own stories we don’t take time for others. I think it is impossible to actually choose to love someone without a willingness to hear their tale. We need to listen. We need to learn. As we join our stories together we make a new thing out of old things, we turn ashes into beauty and mourning into dancing. Then we have become true storytellers, like The True Storyteller who spins us out into our epic path every day.
Tomorrow, as you can, look deeply into the people you journey with. Ask them, “What’s your story?” And listen. And share. And love.