Every day we are confronted with realities that confound us, enrage us, and break our hearts. We sift through their rubble for the smallest shard of meaning. We search for clues, breadcrumbs, anything that will put our tired minds at rest. And for all of this striving, it is rarely with measurable result.
We know Frederich Buechner’s words are true, but we’re loathe to admit or accept them:
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid.”
Still we fight, wrestle, and do battle with the unanswerable question of “Why?” We are ravenous for an answer.
I am no different than you. I see things I cannot reconcile, no matter how hard I try. Too painful, too diffcult, too impossible, too violent. I can’t shrug my shoulders and move on nor take a dogmatic position that enables me to rail at all who disagree with me. I have to find a way to hold ambivalence, to stay, to allow (though not accept) what I hate and hold on tenaciously to hope.
The only way in which I know how to do such a thing is to go to stories.
Stories of others who have asked the same questions – even more, have somehow lived without their answers. Stories that offer me perspective and wisdom – even more, companionship, kindness, and support. Stories that name and normalize my own – even more, remind me that so many have persevered and survived; that perhaps I will, as well. Stories that remind me that despite so much evidence to the contrary, grace, hope, miracles, and love endure – ever more, ongoing, infinitely, no matter what.
“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.”
~ Isak Dinesen
Stories are hardly an escape from reality; rather, a visceral and poignant reminder that one profound truth supersedes and wins out over all others (despite evidence to the contrary at times): Stories reveal all that we have in common, all that we share, all the similarity found even (and maybe especially) in difference. When we listen to an ancient myth, though far removed from our day-to-day reality, we see aspects of ourselves. When we hear a fable or fairytale, though hardly the stuff of our lived experience, we see aspects of ourselves. When we watch a film, whether drama, romance, or sci-fi, we see aspects of ourselves. And we see each other.
We must tell stories to be reminded that we are more the same than not. No matter the time period, the culture, the politics, the religion, the lens, the perspective. We are one.
“To hell with facts! We need stories!”
~ Ken Kesey
So let us tell stories. And let us listen to them. Our own. Others’. Any and all we can get our hands and hearts on. Those that break us open and those that bind us back together again. Most of all, those that bind us to one another – again and again and again.
When we do, the inexplicable, unanswerable, and ever-nagging question of “why,” loses a little bit of its power and grace, hope, miracles, and love gain back so much more of theirs. As it should be. As it must be.
May it be so.
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