Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich and James Patterson are top earning authors in the world today. If you do a little googling, you would find that highest paid and bestselling authors of all times are: Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, William Shakespeare and J. R. R. Tolkien. What is the common among these authors?
Yes, all of them are storytellers. Humanity as a whole has a great need of stories. Stories touch something inside our core, our being, affect our way of living and perception and yes, entertain us.
One of my friends wrote:
Storytelling does more than alleviate boredom, it also calls into play very deeply resonant archetypes and so I feel that storytelling connects to people on a very spiritual level. With sports, though, you have the added impact of great demonstrations of physical prowess and skill. Nonetheless, you can see such demonstrations in other aspects of entertainment – for example at the circus, or at a dance concert, where you might see very talented acrobats perform amazing feats. Still, I don’t think these have the same emotional impact that forms of storytelling have.
Most of you must have some memories of your childhood days, when your parents, grandparents, uncle and aunt used to tell you bedtime stories. In spite of monkey mind which ever keeps on chattering and wandering here and there, quicker than you can imagine in case of children; a good story, narrated equally well– could act as an enchanting agent. They don’t only get hooked to it but also create their moral values out of it.
From bedtime stories to cartoons and movies, our fascination never ceases for tales. As we grow up, some of us might not like reading novels, or watching Test Cricket matches, because they need a lot of patience and time, but almost all of us, in some form or other spend every day in listening, watching, reading and telling stories. Stories in epics inspire us and act as motivators to improve our righteousness. We will not delve into the matter of what is right or wrong here, because we are here to explore the role of storytelling in our lives.
We ourselves live in stories. Shakespeare expressed it so beautifully:
image source: Wikimedia Commons
All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143
We are consistently creating this fiction called ‘Life’ subconsciously. We weave fabrics of this story every single moment of our waking life and even in dreams we don’t cease to do it. Dreams are nothing but most vivid and brilliant stories we could ever create. Many of us who have contemplated upon the nature of our dreams realize that if we could just do ten percent as good in our real lives, with our stories, as our subconscious brain does in dreams; we will astonish ourselves with majesty of the beauty created. Good dreams make us feel good and bad dreams acting as cathartic agents, let purge heavy emotions out. Many nightmares in which we feel embarrassed are nothing but preparation of events to come. In all our dreams, we are protagonists, no matter whether we are winning or losing, fighting or chasing, enjoying or suffering, we are the heroes of our stories. And the same applies to our waking lives as well.
We always have a story to tell. We might live with facts, but not for enough long. That is why philosophers are so dull and boring. We have a story of success or struggle to tell and we confound that story with our life. We are the life. I AM the life. This confusion that our life story is our life, takes away a lot of joy, beauty and light from us.
But I don’t intend to waste your time with techniques to live in the present moment. All great philosophers and mystics do it. They suggest that if you want to find the Truth and Life, just start breaking the stories and start living with facts. It’s never easy because we are so accustomed to stories and to part with them seems like to part with essence of our being.
All stories are fiction. All facts are also fiction because they’re merely interpretation. Human form doesn’t allow us access to facts. The facts are creations of human mind’s narrow window of analysis of phenomenon and this very mind is also one of the phenomenons. The fiction is not Truth and it could never be, but still it’s the most important part of our day-to-day existence. We cannot live without stories in our heads and we cannot live without dreams. The sleep which refurbishes us with life force energy has dreams as core of its mechanisms which help us function well.
Sports, games, recreations and chattering are in one way or another forms of storytelling and their aim is mostly to get entertained. Gaining skill or information is secondary. Even the skill gained by some of the finest practitioners is used to entertain others, to help tickle them by supporting narratives in their heads. All art forms, symbolic or explicit, aim at telling a story and the audience might not be ‘the other’. Dreams are stories where narrator, narration, narrated and audience have so much in common. You might have observed characters in movies talking to their dogs or diaries to purge their emotions out or to get rid of their boredom. The sense of having an audience does improve the feedback loop and makes narrative more vivid and vibrant but it’s always the story for the storyteller. We create our stories for ourselves. The world is a projection of our own self and if you want to replace word ‘projection’ with ‘story,’ it would do great!
The storytellers in our culture are rewarded so well because we have a great need for good stories. This is a permanent demand, therefore the supply must be permanent and suppliers are always needed. Storytellers solve problems of humanity. They, on one hand, let audience divert their mind from grim reality and existential nightmare, and on the other hand, let audience get rid of boredom and find solace in the stories which boost their morale. This is why Cinema, TV, Novels and Sports have such a great importance in our society. Core moral values look so dry in the absence of stories; therefore we create magnificent narratives of miracles to let values pass through our minds. We create epics with values. Most of us take them without any critical thinking and start fighting based on what is written in the book, because we are so highly addicted a culture that we cannot find difference between stories and reality. We kill anyone who threatens to break the illusion of our stories. We banish those who try to awaken us from our dreams. We don’t want to wake up because stories are so comforting and they help us live.