The problem with stories

Stories are awesome. I really should share more of them here. They add character and emotion. They bring things to life. They entertain. Come to think of it, they’re so awesome that I’m almost positive I’ve never heard anything bad about them.

That gets my attention. Are stories really that perfect? Is there anything wrong with them, the format in general?

Well, yeah, I think there is: the problem with stories is that they’re history. You can make up stories that will happen in the future, or you can tell them in the present tense. But overall, stories are things of the past. They communicate events from the past.

Nothing’s wrong with that, per se. Stories do their job well. The problem is that stories, as accounts of past events, can mask what’s happening right now.

I hesitate to make a weather comparison because I’m not sure it’s fair, but I’ll do it anyway. Stories are like weather. You talk about the weather to connect with people superficially. Stories can end up serving the same purpose, or end up causing the same problem.

No, no, you say. Stories connect us on the deepest level possible.

Yeah, I think that’s true, sometimes. Other times, though, stories just rehash history without opinion, without passion, without vulnerability. Like when Uncle Harry tells his old war stories or your friend recounts her struggle to find the perfect purse. They tell us something about the narrator, sure, but how much?

What if instead we tried answering scary questions, like what scares us, what we enjoy but perhaps shouldn’t, or how we actually feel about other people? What if we shared what’s going on right now, what we’re feeling right now?

Stories are still awesome – don’t get me wrong – but only when they make us vulnerable. Stories are awesome when they take us deeper, not just backward.

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