Stories Matter

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

Last Monday, I went to see a fan-financed documentary on Stark Trek: Deep Space Nine called “What We Left Behind”. The documentary discussed, from the perspective of the show’s actors, actresses, writers, directors, show runner, and even the fans, aspects of the tv series and how it had affected their lives. In essence, it was a story of a show that brought stories to the small screen for all of us to experience. And it brought so many aspects of that series back to life, and into the forefront of my memory. The restoration of characters that I had loved so long, and eventually set on to the shelves of my mind when the show had come to its conclusion, was a moment of pure joy for me. And a reminder, that stories matter.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a different kind of Star Trek show. Set in the same universe and time frame that ST: Next Generation and ST: Voyager were in, it brought forth a much darker feel than those two shows did. Some of the aspirations of Star Fleet were shown to be shady power grabs of the quadrant, sometimes placing the lives of the innocents that lived on the planets there in the position of being pawns in a much larger game, as shown through the lens of the Dominion War. And sometimes, aspects of the show mirrored what was happening in real life during its time of original airing. The feelings generated from some of those moments were pulled back into my thinking, like the opening of semi-healed scabs that are re-opened again. Because stories do matter. Stories sometimes provide the echoes of the soundtracks to our lives.

In the tv series, one of the characters – Nog – loses his leg during a battle with the Dominion. This sets a story-arc for the character as he rehabs his injury, and pulls back from all of the characters that are part of his family and friends. Portrayed by Aron Eisenberg, this story arc hit home for me, as well as many other US military veterans. Aron recounted, in an interview in the documentary, that US service members who had suffered in some manner would constantly and consistently thank him for this particular story arc. That the way he portrayed the character resonated with their own experiences, and allowed some of them to approach their rehabilitation from a different perspective. Stories do matter.

Leaving the trail of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I cannot recall the number of times that I found myself really drawn and focused to some of the characters that Charles de Lint has created and regaled tales of in his Newford series of books. His characters go through emotional moments of joy, rejection, anger and sadness that are written so descriptively that I cry with them in their triumphs and shrink back in their defeats. Stories and tales that resonate in that manner can help us to deal with our own emotions, allowing us to feel with and through these characters in an open manner that today’s society seemingly desires to cut us off from. Stories really do matter, particularly when the individual experiencing these stories allows themselves to be openly vulnerable. And typically, we read or watch these in spaces where we can be vulnerable in that manner.

I work in a job that relies on statistics to tell the stories. Cold-hearted formulas that relate to an aspect of measurement. Did we pass five percent more students this semester than we did a year ago at this time? How many more graduates did we have? And those stories can be nice when the successes are measured in a positive manner or the lack of success can be used like a surgeon’s scalpel to remove perceived issues. What gets missed in all of those formulaic stories are the real measures of success. The student that not only got their classwork in and participated in class, but also worked two jobs during that same space, so as to keep her children fed and clothed. The sacrifice that her parents made to insure that the children had babysitting available while she went to class or needed to study. And the best part of the story won’t take place at graduation. That takes place when she finds a job suited to her newly acquired knowledge and her unique skills, and that may not happen until much further into her story. In the meantime, she may still have more hardships to overcome, more difficult and trying times. Why? Because life can be hard sometimes. Not every story gets a storybook ending. But those stories – and so many others – do matter.

Within Paganism, we lean back to mythology for a lot of inspiration. These myths – these stories, provide examples of life in motion. Its really not that important as to the veracity of the story. Just as the veracity of de Lint’s Newford stories is not nearly as important to the connection that folks feel to the characters. Don’t like de Lint? Try a different author. Don’t like Science Fiction or Fantasy? Try a different genre. The stories are out there, the writers pour their hearts and souls into those pages, finding the essence of these characters – and they tend to get their inspirations from the people around them. Why? Because THOSE stories matter. The stories might get a different wrapping, a different setting, and some of the elements might become fantastical aspects that we don’t readily find here in the mundane world. But we’re good at metaphorical thinking. We do a good job of finding details in the abstract. We find ways to get the stories to matter. We find elements of who we are in the characters that we read about, the ones we watch on tv or on the movie screen. Or even the ones we picture in our heads while a storyteller spins a yarn around the campfire. Stories are who we are. Stories matter.

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