We are, by virtue of our marvelous and largely misused minds, more collections of stories than creatures of flesh and blood.
Stories are for sale on every street corner. Advertisers create storylines to draw us to their products, leaders create narratives to both establish themselves and further their agendas, and companies try to instill “company culture” as a tale that will cause wholehearted dedication from their employees.
Our most popular diversions are visual stories; our most famous citizens are actors in those stories.
Sometimes stories are good. If you were to tell yourself an inspiring story about yourself, you’d be stronger against bad habits and addictions. When the media tells stories about heroism or draw attention to something where activism can make a difference, they create communities.
But mostly stories are bad. Most people tell themselves sad stories about themselves, stories about loss and futility. The media mostly tells stories as the packaging for the vicarious thrills of violence, domination, and excess they’re really selling.
We consume stories just like food and drink, and when we believe them they become a part of us. But whether or not the stories you consume are useful or interesting, or cynical and disheartening – there’s a vast difference between hearing a story and believing it.
You don’t have to believe advertisers or the media. You don’t have to believe leaders or established experts. You don’t have to believe companies – not even your own. You don’t even have to believe the stories your family give you, or the stories that you tell yourself. In fact, you can move through the world without any sort of storyline context- and just observe all these stories. They’re just sequenced thoughts about causality, arising and subsiding like everything else.
We can, by virtue of our marvelous and properly used minds, strip away the stories that blind us to the entirely mysterious and indescribable light of grace. To be witnesses of creation and fully living creatures is to engage in the only true story – the one beyond all words.