The topic this week really got me thinking. Obviously, stories matter to us all, they help us make sense of the world, we enjoy them, we find deep meaning in them, empathy, etc… but is there more?
When I was considering all of this, I remembered watching Braveheart and how, amidst one of the battles, I’d realized that one day I will die.
Yes, obvious, I know.
But here’s the thing, the paradox of it all—I while already know I’m going to die, I don’t seem to really believe it. After all, if I did, I would live differently, worry about different things, prioritize in other ways.
In a way, the story opened my eyes to a truth I already knew. Novels use a pretend world to help us to better see the real one. And it seems to me we need constant reminding. Because we know all sorts of things that we don’t seem to believe: love conquers all, eternity is but a heartbeat away, relationships are more valuable than possessions, etc…
I know this sounds a little odd to say, but stories help us to start believing the things we already know. After a story that has deeply engaged us, we drink in life more deeply, notice the sunsets more, the laughter of children more, value relationships more. Maybe that’s why we cry at the movies even though we know the stories aren’t real. Because the truths of life and death and love and hope and romance are real and we start to resonate with that.
If a story is well-told, when we “suspend our disbelief” during it, we actually open ourselves up to finally stop suspending our disbelief in reality and—if only for a moment—-to begin to truly believe in our hearts the truths we already know in our heads.