The Full Story

My youngest son loves comedy. Unfortunately, a lot of the comedy he seems to like is aimed at an audience a few years older than himself, and so many of the jokes sail over his head. He laughs anyway, because he likes to laugh with the crowd, and then asks, “Why is that funny?” Of course, it is impossible to explain a joke in such a way to make it funny to the person who did not get it when it was first told. This person might understand intellectually why it was funny, but they have missed their chance to laugh because the true humor in all jokes lies in what is not said, what the audience fills in. Consider:

A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What is this? Some kind of joke?”

If you have to explain that many jokes begin this way it is no longer funny. We make it funny by finishing the joke. Stories are like this too. In high school, and even college, we are often asked to delve into the “theme” of a famous book or story. The theme is what the story is “about.” But trying to describe after the fact what any story, especially a story with a few layers to it, is about is much the same as trying to explain why a joke is funny. You will always fall short.

The very best stories are always about the fullness of life. And so while one story’s theme might be summed up as “Love Thyself,” this does not begin to encompass what is required to love thyself, the combination of surrender and acceptance and joy and perhaps even some sorrow. The reason the story was written is because simply saying “Love Thyself” isn’t enough. Within the empty spaces of the story, those spaces the writer leaves for the reader’s own imagination, the fullness of life is felt, and only then is the book and the story in all it was meant to be understood.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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