“God made man because he loves stories” (Elie Wiesel).
ALL OF US ARE WRITING STORIES, AND WE’RE SURROUNDED BY STORIES THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE WRITING TOO. As Thoreau said, “Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told.” Our stories may not be written down with pen and ink, but even so, we’re all engaged in events that, were they to be written, would constitute quite a chronicle. The tales we’re telling by the unfolding of our human lives are immensely and endlessly interesting.
In its most basic sense, a “story” is a sequence of events. To have a story, you must have more than an idea, a truth, a theme, or a thesis. You must have some events, some happenings, and these must be successive: that is, they must be linked together, one leading to another. But the truly fascinating thing about stories — and it’s the reason why we like stories so much — is that the telling of a sequence of events can often reveal to us (or remind us of) ideas and truths that are outside our limited world of time and space. A plot is a powerful thing!
C. S. Lewis, who was very wise when it came to the magic of stories, said it this way: “In life and art both, as it seems to me, we are always trying to catch in our net of successive moments something that is not successive. Whether in real life there is any doctor who can teach us how to do it, so that at last either the meshes will become fine enough to hold the bird, or we be so changed that we can throw our nets away, and follow the bird to its own country, is not a question for this essay. But I think it is sometimes done — or very, very nearly done — in stories. I believe the effort to be well worth making.”
So we should love stories. We should love to hear them, read them, and tell them. And as for those stories we ourselves are living, we should be careful about them. Nothing is sadder in old age than to look back on a life that, if a truthful storyteller were to tell it, would be a hurtful story, an embarrassing story, or a shameful story.
But if our own stories are important, we should also be interested in other people’s stories. The tales that are unfolding around us every day are well worth paying attention to. You just never know when somebody’s else’s tale might be better than any you’ve heard so far . . .
“But that is another story” (Rudyard Kipling).