Enormous Significance of Stories


Every storyteller … looks out at the world much as you and I look out at it and sees things happening—people being born, growing up, working, loving, getting old, and finally dying—only then, by the very process of taking certain of these events and turning them into a story … does he make a sort of claim about events in general, about the nature of life itself.

And the storyteller’s claim, I believe, is that life has meaning—that the things that happen to people happen not just by accident like leaves being blown off a tree by the wind but that there is order and purpose deep down behind them or inside them and that they are leading us not just anywhere but somewhere.

The power of stories is that they are telling us that life adds up somehow, that life itself is like a story.

And this grips us and fascinates us because of the feeling it gives us that if there is meaning in any life … then there is meaning also in our lives. And if this is true, it is of enormous significance in itself, and it makes us listen to the storyteller with great intensity because in this way all his stories are about us and because it is always possible that he may give us some clue as to what the meaning of our lives is. – Frederick Buechner

Tell me a story, and I will listen. Preach and teach, and I might turn away. Or I might smile and nod, but my thoughts and heart are far away.

But begin to relate a story, and something in me opens up to receive. Some say that all the world is a stage. Perhaps it is true in that a stage is the setting for a story.

All the world. A story.

A thousand stories. A million. A billion times a billion. But somehow one.

In the realm of literature, the word “archetype” speaks to the idea that certain stories, characters, or settings stand as representations of all stories, people, and settings. Certain places or characters stand for so much more than the simple part they play in the story. A tree is not only a tree; it is life or knowledge or the loss of innocence. A river is not only a river; it is cleansing or rebirth or maybe even death. White is innocence, purity.

And the hero of the story — no matter how flawed or how near to death he comes, or even if he does die — sends some sort of thrill through the heart of the reader. Maybe it’s that part in each of us that wants to be a hero. Or maybe it’s that deeper part in each of us that wants to be rescued. That knows we need a hero. A rescuer. In the words of some, a Savior.

So we read a story. A thousand stories. And we look — often subconsciously – for those archetypes. For answers. For meaning. For a hero.

And if we are looking, we find. Even in the most random story. Or the darkest. Or most intentionally meaningless. Somehow the storytellers do communicate meaning. Truth. About life. About ourselves. About a Story that encompasses wordlessly all other stories, even the most meaningless, and infuses them with wonder. So that no one and no story and no chapter or paragraph or even word that we live could be construed as without meaning and purpose. Not when an overarching Story is penned by an all-knowing Author. Not when His words are Life and His message is love, and His story is Grace and Truth.

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