Stories Shape Worlds

In my third of three interrelated blogs about what shapes the world we live in, I would like to speak to those constructing the reality we perceive, those tellers of tales and builders of paradigms. For some time now you have forgotten the original magic that drew you to words and stories. What so clearly influenced you as a child you set aside somewhere during the growing process in light of the “realities” the adult world sought to convince you of. Somehow you forgot what you knew to be true, became convinced by the stories told by those who had neither conviction nor beauty in their craft. You came to believe in their ugly story, though to be fair to them, it was the best their storytelling ability could weave.

What they lacked in beauty and truth they made up for in insistence and threat. They sold you an ugly story and they did so by telling you the beautiful and true were childish notions. They told you what you believed to be beautiful and true was dangerous, and that the only safe alternative was to reach less far and for something of far less value. And you believed it, because they seemed so damned sure of themselves. You were trusting, because that is what people who embrace the beautiful and the true are. You were willing to believe that others knew more than you because you didn’t want to believe that anybody could really know that much less.

So you began to live the lie, even though you knew it was a lie. You knew a life so mundane and ugly must be a lie, because life must be better than that. You knew their story was not the real one because you had caught a glimpse of something so much more wonderful.

You never really gave up on the vision you had. Instead, you accepted to live within the lie in order that you could fight it from the inside. You would inhabit the lie and while experiencing it you would learn for yourself the flaws in the story. And there were many gross, horrible flaws in the ugly story spun for you by others. Still, you doubted yourself. You told yourself that perhaps you only wanted to disbelieve the story they told you precisely because it was so sordid and base. You doubted yourself because you had such a scrupulous conscience and felt such a need to be certain about your beliefs. More than anything, you wanted to know the truth — even if the truth was not beautiful — because if it was not beautiful, you would find a way to make it so. You would discover the truth and then overcome all odds to insure that beauty as well as truth won the day.

But the game was rigged against you. You fought the fight on their home turf. You let the tellers of the ugly lie decide the rules, and even then you foolishly assumed they would follow the rules they had created. But they were the tellers of the ugly story, and tellers of the ugly story aren’t able to conceive of a world where playing by the rules ever pays off.

It’s not their fault. Like you they were made to believe in the ugly story, but unlike you, they never got to experience the beautiful one. They were taught their lessons when they were young. They were taught ugly lies and in turn they acted upon them.

It’s a funny thing about a story. The story shapes your perceptions about the world around you. If the story says that people are basically bad, you will behave in fear and doubt and your experiences will basically confirm what you believe. But, if you believe in a beautiful story, if you have even once glimpsed a world that is beautiful, where people act according to the most noble of ideas, you will behave towards others in faith and love and that faith and love will transform your interactions with others.

Not always. The people who have been taught the ugly lie have been taught their lessons most cruelly, and they will not easily be swayed from the story that has caused them to be so guarded, so hurt. It takes someone well versed in the beautiful story not to be dismayed by those so deeply suffering from the ugly lie. Both sides, whether they realize it or not, are spreading the story they have been told, hoping to make their version of reality the official one.

The people who tell the ugly lie are hurting, and their hurt is proof to them the world is ugly. They deny the beautiful and the true but each time they do a little part of them dies. They oppose the story that is beautiful and true, but deep within them they are seeking it. They wish to be proven wrong, but have no great faith that it will happen. They do not realize that their behavior is precisely what is keeping them from truly experiencing it.

They are at war, the ugly story and the beautiful story, each seeking to disprove the other, each seeking to dictate the behavior and attitudes of us all. Each of us are soldiers in that battle, whether we see ourselves as conscripts, soldiers of fortune, or defenders of all we hold precious. If you think of yourself as a proponent of the beautiful truth, you must be as certain of your convictions as the other side pretends to be. You must show leadership. The story you tell must show beauty and truth, free as much as it is possible to be from the ugly and the untrue. For those who suffer from ugly lies will be quicker to see your hypocrisy than you ever will. In that way they will make you a better person if you permit them to.

For that reason you can never allow the belief that you are on the right side to permit you to act in ugly ways or to lie. You cannot win the war playing by their rules. You cannot win the game by accepting the ugly lie as a weapon you can use. In fact, you cannot beat them by thinking of them as your enemy. That is not the story you believe in. The story that is both beautiful and true is that all men are your brothers, all women your sisters. The beautiful truth is that we are all one, all of us destined for some future more wonderful than humanity has ever permitted itself to conceive of before. Thus the struggle is not against others but in the struggle to drag all of humanity more towards the beautiful and the true. And the beautiful and true story becomes closer to being the more we are able, not to combat those who believe the ugly lie, but to help them to see a better way. For in the winning of a soul from darkness, the ugly lie becomes less believable. With every fight we avoid and everyone we are able to convert, the beautiful and the true become more so.

We have all written a few lines of both stories, none of us are angels or demons. Some have written in one more than the other but we need worry about judging or comparing ourselves with others. If there are any winners to be named it is the sinner who has repented, the sheep that was lost and has been found.

And there is the battle, there is the struggle, to close the one book and open the other. The book of ugliness and lies has more pages written in it than ever need be read, nothing more need ever be added. The pages are many but the story is one not worth reading. It is time we close the book, recognizing it for what it is. It is filled with ugliness and lies and while we should not seek to deny it, it is foolish to dwell upon it. Let it remain as a reminder of what should never be, something that collects dust as it becomes a relic of a world that was. The book of beauty and truth is waiting to be filled, its pages already bursting with stories of heroism and faith. And yet, for all the pages of testimony to beauty and truth that awaits being read, there is no end to the blank ones waiting to be written.

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