In real life, the grand chain of events goes more or less like this: And then, and then, and then. Though our experience of time is linear, the story of our life tends to be anything but. It is, instead, made up of lots of unrelated points.
In storytelling, on the other hand, the chain of events becomes a much tidier: And therefore, and therefore, and therefore. This is because great stories indulge our inner obsession with patterns. They make sense from the first incident to the satisfying denouement at the end, like a long line of dominoes, one knocking over the next one, click-click-click-click, until the last one drops with that satisfying clack.
Stories make easy what in life can be so difficult. They help us find meaning and purpose to our existence. Because what is the meaning of happiness, or hardship, or years of mediocrity? Until our storytelling brain has a chance to give it a go, we don’t know. That’s why we’re willing to spend precious hours of our life immersed in fictional narratives, following adventures of people we’ll never meet, traveling through worlds that don’t exist.
A well-told story gives you a glimpse of a universe that makes sense.
Treasure the sense of clarity that stories offer, for it is usually brief. And when it ends, it leaves you off with the heartache of having departed someplace familiar, a quiet sense of loss that comes with turning the last page of a great book, or watching the credits roll after the last episode of a long series. You’re dropped back into the stream of reality that’s no longer someone else’s life and problems, but yours.
Life, I find, when examined in retrospect, makes perfect sense too. Everything that has led you here seems to be inevitable. Just like in a story.
It’s only in the here and now that tomorrow seems chaotic and uncertain. But the future, once you’re done experiencing it, will also become an inevitable part of your story.
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