Why Stories Matter
In the modern age, the mythic core of our culture has collapsed. In the last few hundred years we’ve done away with most of the old stories that we previously lived by. And whereas our outer, material lives have improved immensely during this time, our inner lives have been thrown into turmoil.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, we had no words for the world around us. But as we developed language, we started to tell stories. And we used those stories to define who we were, what the world meant and why we were here.
For thousands and thousands of years, stories helped to create our view of ourselves and our world. Our brains became tuned to stories, for a specific kind of meaning-making. Our brains are still tuned to stories. And that’s one of the problems we now face.
Today we are still looking to stories to define who we are, where we belong and what the purpose of life is. But the vacuum left by the collapse of the old stories has been filled by many new narratives.
- Science tells us that we are merely a physical body, that our consciousness is a by-product of chemical reactions in our brain, and that the purpose of all this is unclear.
- Advertising tells us that we are what we buy and that the purpose of life is to consume stuff.
- Television and movies tell us that we only deserve love when we are beautiful and successful, and money can measure the worth of anything in the world, including people.
Most of the stories around us now reflect the surface level, everyday world that we live in. As our mythic vocabulary shrinks we have fewer and fewer ways of talking about what is unseen and mysterious, both in the universe and in ourselves.
When we find less and less of our inner life reflected back to us in the stories we hear, we can feel alienated from our own depths and believe that no-one else has the internal struggles we have.
But when life is challenging, we need to draw on our inner resources. And when the stories in our life do not affirm those resources, we are weakened and less able to respond.
We are living in times of great upheaval and change, and the challenges we face call for great wisdom, compassion and creativity. More than ever we need the stories around us to affirm our inner strength and our limitless potential.
Stories will do this when they
- reflect our inner dilemmas back to us and address those dilemmas in intuitive and non-rational ways.
- engage the subsconscious mind by using the language of symbolism.
- show characters attaining wisdom, thus giving us a felt sense of how to access that wisdom ourselves.
- are entertaining and well told, so that listening to them is easy and enjoyable.
Stories that have these four elements will support us to feel at home in ourselves and at home in the universe.
“I just stumbled across your story today and flicked it onto play…and ended up suspended in attention. I just sat on the floor, the day growing dark, not even interested in turning a light on in my room, not even interested in thinking….and was blown away by the incredible beauty, and essence of your tale. It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of today, as my life-story falls apart. It reminded me of the beauty of ambiguity, and the precious, transient nature of my existence. Thank you.”
– Hazel Lightfoot, Cumbria, England.
Or perhaps you’re wondering who tells these stories?
Find out more about me, Leo Sofer, and what led me to this work.