Stories. We are surrounded by stories. There are ones that catch our attention and refuse to leave us. Others we carry for just a small bit of time before moving to another one. But, always, we are surrounded by stories. For example, the quotes that are placed here probably bring to mind the stories they are attached to, here’s a quick rundown of their power:
Sherlock Holmes, the Consulting Detective, came on the scene in 1887. This character has the ability to still catch our attention, so much that we have two big networks doing their own version of the story (BBC and CBS) at the same time. There are movies such as Robert Downey, Jr‘s and Jude Law‘s version of Sherlock Holmes not to mention Basil Rathbone‘s classic version. Also the famous cartoon version The Great Mouse Detective (1986), that I grew up with and which started my love for the Sherlock character. Other versions come and go and the rabid fandom lives on. Doyle wrote such an amazing character that when he tried to kill off Holmes in the paper serial of his day, the readers rebelled, wearing black armbands to mourn the character. Doyle had to bring back Sherlock Holmes because the readers were so invested in him. We still are!
Doyle wrote a story that has stuck with us for 126 years.
Jane Austen wrote in 1813, Pride and Prejudice. It is a ‘classic,’ required reading in most English Lit classes. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy still have the power to gain our attention. Austen’s book is considered one of the most beloved stories and is much studied in scholarly circles. It has seen many adaptations over the years.
Austen wrote this romantic story 200 years ago, and still we hold it dear.
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written in 1884, is another classic. It too has seen it’s share of various adaptations in movies and television shows. It also has seen it’s share of the ‘politically correct’ wars. I remember when I was in middle school hearing the various reasons of why certain words should be changed, and it’s a debate that is still going on. But, still we hold onto the story. Something about Finn’s coming of age in a changing world, grabs our attention and refuses to release us.
Twain wrote it 129 years ago and still we debate it.
Three stories out of the billions written since the first letter was shaped. Three stories that are just the brink of not only the stories of the English speaker, but of the world. Even if we have never taken the much needed time to read these classic works, most of us know of them. How could we not when even in this day and age we speak of these century plus stories?
We are story. We as a human race are made up of stories. We seek to understand the world around us and when we do, we tell others of what we have discovered- in story. Is it any wonder that when God spoke to us in the written word, He chose to do so mostly in story form? 75% of the Bible is in story format while 15% is in poetry. The small percentage that is left is letter and prophecy, which even there if you look closely, might have story format woven into it. The Bible as a whole is a story. We often forget in our search for truth that everything from Genesis to Revelation is related and part of the same story.
Why would God chose the form of story to teach us?
Because it is how we learn.
We love stories because it helps us realize that we are not alone in this world. We want to know that someone else, even if it is a fictional character, has felt a little bit of our fear, a little bit of our love. We want to know that we are not the only one to ever feel this way. We want to believe that the monsters that haunt us can be killed. G.K. Chesterton put it beautifully when he said “Fairy tales don’t tell children that dragons exist; children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”
Every one of us is in the midst of our own story. We have our own villains and heroes who interact with us on a daily basis. We become our own hero and our own villain as well. We become the evil in our autobiographies when we refuse to shoulder the weight of the hero’s burden, turning to the easy way out. Our stories are connected with each person we come in contact with. Sometimes we have the reoccurring characters that we come to love or hate, while there are the stock characters that show some aspect of our own character, but do not seem to have much impact on our lives. Our story is not alone in this vast world.
Our stories are but part of the larger Story. We become who we are through the lives of our relatives, the shape of their existence directs where we might show up in our own narrative. There is a reason why numerous people seek to understand their genealogies. It is because they feel adrift; without knowing who they are, they do not know who they will become.
Historians seek to understand that which has passed beyond our understanding. They seek to decode how the past still has power over us today. They wish to understand who we, as the human race, are and will become.
We are all connected. It’s not some mystical otherworldly belief. It is simple truth. Our stories slip into each other, they weave in and around every person we speak with. We never have to be alone. Since the moment Adam was given speech, he was speaking in story. God communicated with him about the world he created for him. How did Eve learn about the world she awoke in? Adam taught her what God told him, probably walking with her where he had tread with God. Pointing at certain things, he conveyed what he had himself learned.
Stories are not just what is between the covers of a book, nor is it only that which we find on the screen. We communicate our part of the narrative when we tell a friend about our day, when we write in our little journals about the person who caught our eye.
Our stories will not always be of love and adventures. Most of us will write in tears and blood at one time or another, while joy seems to be fleeting. The climax of our story will not truly come till our death, and even then, it might just be a bit of a cliffhanger until we see where we stand on the other side of death.
We are not alone. We need not seek a fictional character to be understood, when we can look to the person beside us. Though admittedly it is easier to handle a character’s reaction since they don’t talk back.
Wherever you are in the midst of your own narrative, know you are part of something so much bigger. You a very important part of my story. For you, I would wear a black armband.
Read well my friends and find comfort in the stories that are unfolding!