As you can see from elsewhere in this magazine, I am leading a four-part series on “Wonder Stories”. We already told the Odyssey in 60 minutes (that has to be some kind of record); in February and March we’ll talk about Little Women, “The Good Samaritan” and Star Wars. Titles subject to change: I may slip a few Hindu epics in there too.
Why are we telling stories? Well, because they’re fun for one thing. We all like hearing a good yarn, don’t we. But more than this, stories give us ideas and courage about how to live.
Stories, paradoxically, are both a step back from our lives and a step further into our lives. In the short term, stories are an escape from our own life. But, in the long term, stories provide us with meaning and context, allowing us to live more fully. Our interest in Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s search for mutual happiness, or Bilbo Baggins’ quest to return the One Ring to Mount Mordor, is not merely a yearning for a change of scene from our daily grind. Stories give us new perspectives on the struggles, dilemmas and losses of our own life.
Imagine I am about to visit the doctor this afternoon so she can take a look at a troubling lump I’ve found on my body, and this morning I read Shakespeare (neither of these are actually true, by the way…this is just for the sake of example). Do the battles and violence of Henry V, say, have anything to do with whether or not I have cancer? Of course not. I have never been a king nor a subject, and am not fighting in a war. And yet, by the time I get to the doctor’s office I have already tasted the terror of death and the glory of life, all from the safety of my favourite armchair.
With stories around me, my troubles seem simultaneously less big and more significant. They are less big because I am no longer exclusively, endlessly focused on that tiny, horrifying lump. Instead, I have something else to wrap my mind around, at least until I find out the news.
Yet at the same time, my troubles are more significant, too, because I now am more aware of inhabiting a world where others suffer, just like they do in Henry V, and where humankind can nonetheless wrest meaning from the experience of being human, suffering and all.
We have several members and friends who are finding life a struggle at the moment either through illness or other related circumstances. We send them all our very best wishes.
I found this little poem which I thought might help someone to cope, so here it is:
If the mountain seems too big today
Then climb a hill instead
If the morning brings you sadness
It’s ok to stay in bed
If the day ahead weighs heavy
And your plans feel like a curse
There’s no shame in rearranging
Don’t make yourself feel worse
If a shower stings like needles
And a bath feels like you’ll drown
If you haven’t washed your hair for days
Don’t throw away your crown
A day is not a lifetime
A rest is not defeat
Don’t think of it as failure
Just a quiet, kind retreat
It’s ok to take a moment
From an anxious, fractured mind
The world will not stop turning
While you get realigned
The mountain will still be there
When you want to try again
You can climb it in your own time
Just love yourself til then
Laura Ding Edwards
We send love and prayers to all our absent members and friends