Why We Love Stories

While I wrote this article, this song started playing on my computer. I think I’ll encourage you all to listen to it while you read this.

They say, “Plant a tree, write a book, and raise a child.” I couldn’t find the exact source of that quote, but it is a phrase I agree with. Even before I ever heard of it I agreed with it.

What’s the significance of planting a tree? Well, all life on Earth gets the energy it needs to survive from the sun, and where do animals like us get this energy? We don’t directly eat sunlight. Well, we get it from plants, who in their own way actually do eat sunlight. So, ‘plant a tree’ I agree with because we as humans survive thanks to plants. Also, trees help with our breathing too. We kind of owe plants our utmost respect. They take care of us and we don’t seem to take care of them much.

I’ll get to ‘write a book’ later.

As for ‘raise a child,’ I think there’s more to that one than the simple fact we need children to continue as a species. Remnant has many themes in it, including faith, the question of fight or flight, etc. One of the themes I had in the back of my head while writing the book was this: Children are our redemption. (Spoiler warning! Read no further if you haven’t read the book and don’t want the story ruined! You have been warned.) Ethan, though you don’t know exactly what he has done that he is so ashamed of, apart from the things he commits in the narrative, you know he’s done some pretty horrible things. So, why does he want to leave his daughter with someone else? Because he has already done horrible things, but he doesn’t want his child to follow in his steps. Children are like the second chance at life we never had. That is why they are our redemption. Most parents love their children, and for many parents, children are their motivation to clean up their life. For some, like Ethan (who I acknowledge is a fictional character), it is far too late to clean up their life, so they do everything in their power to prevent their child from becoming like them, even if that means leaving their life forever. Also, there is no love a person can have for another like the love a parent has for their child. When you have a child, suddenly your own well-being isn’t your primary concern anymore. It gives you purpose, where before, you may not have had a purpose. A child can be happy even when everything around them is terrible. A child can love and forgive unconditionally. Nothing changes your perspective of the world quite like growing into adulthood. Your imagination shrinks because you’ve been exposed to reality for a long time by then. But a child still has that imagination, they can still dream vastly without being hindered by ‘facts’ or doubt. They don’t weigh the odds, they just try. No matter who you are, you can learn a great deal from having a child. That is why I agree that everyone should have at least one child before they die.

Now, to ‘write a book.’

The reason I love to write is because stories are where our imaginations can be preserved. It’s where the impossible becomes possible. It’s where our wishes come true. It’s where we can relive happy experiences, or create experiences we know we will never have. I think it is the only true spirituality in the world. That and music. Only stories and music can truly transport a person to a higher state of existence, where true peace can be found.

Human beings have loved stories for hundreds of thousands of years, since our ancestors were first able to communicate with each other. When our species first learned how to write, and I’m mostly just referring to cave drawings, what did we do with that achievement? We depicted stories. Legends. Things that may or may not have happened. It didn’t matter if these events were true, because we love stories. It makes sense, I think, when one considers the fact we are social animals. We need others to survive, to be happy, and to have a purpose at all. So, of course we would naturally crave stories about how this man fought off a giant, or how the gods were angry and tried to kill us all but our people defeated the gods. We need stories to know that huge obstacles can be overcome. We need stories to know that someone out there is just like us and struggles just like we do. There’s a reason we treat fictional characters like real people: sometimes, fictional characters are real to US. If they’re real to us, that makes them plenty real.

I believe our innate love of stories is the primary driving force behind religion. It is why I think that, despite how dangerous religion is, it will never truly go away. It’s written into our DNA. Our existence needs a plot. For many, it’s difficult to accept that our existence is a result of chance, and there is no grand future our existence is heading toward. I can understand why billions of people can’t accept that.

Why should we all write a book? I think it is because we all know there is no magic in real life. Happy endings are extremely rare, and even when they happen, they still aren’t the true ending. The true ending is death; the thing we fear the most. Our bodies, our minds, were entirely designed for survival. Despite being 100% built to survive as long as possible, death is still something we cannot escape. However, perhaps death is possible to escape in a story. Even if you write a story where all the characters die, those characters are still immortalized in the book. A person can still open the book again, and start from the beginning. The book will live longer than the one who wrote it. In a book, there can be magic, and there can be happy endings. See, writing a book isn’t about the finished product, it’s about the writing itself. One has to take their mind into a different place, and live in that place in order to bring the story to life. Maybe you’ll spend 50 years writing that story. Maybe you never know where the story is going. But at least you’ll be writing it.

Make something that never truly happened happen. Ignore the laws of physics and time, and do the impossible. Such things are possible in the stories we create, no matter how much real life weighs us down.

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