In These Troubled Times

I really need to stop watching the news, but for reasons I’m sure I don’t need to explain here I return and return and return to it. News is just a story, and I know that there is a difference between a story and the whole of reality. Reality is every single thing there is, including every single word spoken, and every thought that is thought. A story is but a fraction of all that is, but a fraction intended to point the audience toward something larger. The best stories, to me, are like keyholes through which my own imagination can spy the whole of life. I must remind myself of this as I watch the news. The storyteller in me knows there is more to the story than what the journalists can share. The journalists know this too, and so they scuttle about turning over rock after rock for more details. How do you know what someone thought? How do you know what is motivating someone? What was really said in that meeting? What did he say to his wife in bed? What did he write in his journal, or in the letter to his childhood friend? The truth always lies beneath and beneath and beneath the surface, in the sealed hearts of the men and women who appear like actors across this drama played in real time.

Which is why I sometimes wish I could meet some of those characters in person. That would answer quite a bit for me. While it is true that another person’s mind is opaque to me, that another person’s history is locked tight in their inscrutable memory, if I can stand with someone and manage to look upon them without judgment – which is how I wish to see myself – I can glimpse the whole of that person just as I can I glimpse the whole of life through the keyhole of a story.

Every person is living a great and meaningful and important story. When I read a story, I read it for wholly selfish reasons: to understand life as I’ve lived it. Whether it’s a memoir, a mystery, or a romance, that story is always about me. When I stand with another person, their story makes no sense to me until I remember their story is my story. The details are different, but the struggle is the same because love is the same, and loss is the same, and desire is the same, and loneliness is the same, and no one wants to be a villain, and everyone is a hero heading home.

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