That moment when someone says “I hate to break it to you, but x is only a fictional character”. I’m sure you can imagine that my head does some rather spectacular metaphorical exploding. Yes, it makes me angry and sad and frustrated that folk think like this. That they’ve been so removed from the side of their humanity that embraces poetry and metaphor and beauty. That they’ve been so manipulated by modernist thinking to consider stories and fictional characters as less important, less influential, less useful than “real” life. There’s a part of me that thinks that it’s their loss, to leave them to their washed out life that has only half the wisdom and beauty that it could have; a pale imitation of the full human experience. And to be fair, that part wins most of the time – mainly because it would be too exhausting to bite every time I hear/see/experience these words and attitude and I’ve learned to just be a lot more low maintenance and a lot more laid back these days. (I know, probably difficult for some of you who know me to believe that, but honestly, I used to be so much more High Maintenance than I am now.)
But then there are days (like today) where my sadness at this attitude becomes unmanageable and I have to let it out – because if there’s one thing that stories and my fictional heroes have taught me it’s the responsibility to help those around us grow, to see beauty, to understand this world and themselves better, to feel love and to live life to its fullness. And that’s why I share my thoughts and words on this blog.
I’m all for celebrating real life heroes – I’ve celebrated some of their stories right here on the blog. But you shouldn’t have to choose between “real life” heroes and fictional ones. You don’t have to choose. You get to learn from both.
Because I believe in the power of story. I believe it is just as real as everything around us; sometimes it’s more real. I believe that story matters – sometimes it’s the thing that matters most. I believe in heroes, I believe in sacrifice, I believe in friendship, I believe in loyalty, I believe in beauty and poetry and joy.
And these fictional characters that modern thinkers would dismiss – what is it they’re dismissing? They’re dismissing our inspirations, they’re dismissing our teachers, they’re dismissing the warnings. They ignore at their peril the mirror held up to our attitudes and society that story can be, in a way that something “real” can never do. They’re missing the characters that can reflect their own shortcomings, that celebrate their strengths, that rejoice in difference and acceptance.
I’ve said before that stories are like a collective dream, a way for communities to subconciously and metaphorically sort through the issues of the day. When a person doesn’t dream, there results some rather serious mental issues. When we refuse to embrace our communal dream of story the result is not a mental illness, but a sort of “soul disease” that spreads through the community. This is why I write about stories; this is why I love stories. Because I love people and want them (you) to live the fullest life possible – embrace that life with me, embrace your stories.
I could pretty much sum up how I feel about stories/fiction/myth by this quote from the amazing Neil Gaiman. “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”