“Stories teach us how to live, and why.”
– The Storyteller, Arabian Nights
All this time and I have actually never discussed this, one of my most favorite quotes of all time. Go figure!
I love this quote because it speaks to what I love about stories and storytelling, namely, that they present to us lessons and truths and questions that need to be asked, and they do so in such a way that we remember. Stories stay with us long, long after the telling of them is done, and we can always revisit them and learn more. They reflect us, our nature as humans and the world we live in, and they push us. They challenge us without provoking our tempers, and they explain how we can apply the lessons they teach.
The stories we tell are the ultimate vessels of truth, and the ultimate expression of our souls.
That applies to stories which are true, and stories which are fictitious… and, of course, to stories that are a bit of both. 😉
In the miniseries Arabian Nights, the stories that Scheherazade tells her husband each night have a profound impact on him. He is a man who went mad when those he loved and trusted most betrayed and attempted to murder him in the night. It colored his entire perception, and no rational, straight-forward speaking could bring him around, back to reality. But her stories drew him in, each fantastic tale helping him to find his way, to confront the truth of himself, and accept reality again. Thus, he emerged from his madness stable and strong. He applied the lessons she taught him in a climactic battle, but it was the truth he allowed into his soul which saved ultimately saved him and his people, including his queen.
Stories help us process what is real, and emerge with the power of truth in hand. With that power, we become stronger than we were before, and as we rise, we lift those around us as well.
I do not think it is a coincidence that all the great civilizations in the history of the world produced stories, and poetry, and music, and art. Ancient Greece, wherein the seeds of Western Civilization were sown. Elizabethan England, the time of Shakespeare, wherein the hinges of history swung open between the Old World and the New. Ancient Israel, whose religious history was recorded in the Bible, a bedrock of our civilization. And here and now, today, with so many Masters at work as ideas and ideologies clash, and the fate of freedom itself may soon be decided both in tumultuous conflict and backroom whispers and every vote cast. What an exciting time to be alive!
I wonder what stories of today we will tell again in the ages to come. I wonder what our stories will teach others.