Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Power of Stories

We all have stories that we tell to ourselves.

"I would be so much happier if I had a million dollars."

"Someday I'll meet the right person and they'll be so perfect and I'll never be sad or lonely again."

"Everything will be so much better when I lose all that weight."

"People aren't animals."

One way or another, we all have our myths, whether they take the form of ancient stories, religious narratives, tall tales, rumours, urban legends, or common wisdom that may or may not actually be wise.  Among other things, I have my faith, and I do believe that I have good reasons to have it.  But I'm also willing to entertain the notion, if only as a mental exercise, that the atheists may have it right.  I don't believe that we should take anything as absolute truth just because it makes sense to us or we've been told by someone we trust that it's absolutely true.  We should never let anyone else take responsibility for our own thoughts and beliefs. (Even atheists shouldn't, in my opinion, but because of the nature of my spiritual life, I suspect that I may not be the best judge of this.)  In fact, I would argue that to let that happen is a little lazy and extremely irresponsible.

Whether or not our everyday myths stand a chance at being true, and whether or not there actually are Gods, angels, demons, faeries, etc., it just seems like most humans need something bigger than ourselves to believe in.  It doesn't have to be supernatural.  It just has to be bigger than we are in some way, or more important, or something that convinces us that we're right in spite of whatever doubts we might have (regardless of whether we'll admit them), or at least something that gives us the promise of a better life than we currently have.  Something that promises enlightenment, or power, or the possibility of getting what we want.

The power of the stories that we tell to ourselves is immense, and I often wish that it wasn't so frequently misused.  Stories can do tremendous good; they can inspire us to be better people, comfort us when we're sad or lonely, give us hope when we despair, and give us entertainment as well.  But when they're misused, stories can do tremendous harm as well.  They can inspire, or at least be used as an excuse for, some of the worst impulses in human nature.

Never underestimate the power of stories.


  1. I am so happy to have found your blog. You and I are a lot alike. I've been trying to make sense of my spirituality for a long time. I hope you blog more in the future

    1. Hi, Danielle! I'm glad that you're enjoying my blog. I haven't written much this month (or at least, I haven't written much that's actually ended up getting posted) as inspiration's been running a little thin lately, but I have no plans to abandon this blog any time soon. :)