Why are Stories so important?


This morning there was a sharp frost and a mist. I went out early with the dogs and it is (still, as I write) one of those mornings of utter beauty and joy. The intense light of the low emerging sun coupling with the frosty crunchiness underfoot.

As I walked, from rising sunlight into mist, something registered. I walked on, into mist, still half asleep, on my usual route, not knowing what it was.

At the end of the first field I decided not to turn left, round it as I would usually do, but instead to turn completely, to head back; through the mist into the light.

Emerging into the light wasn’t one of those things that happened suddenly but instead occurred softly, through a gentle gradation of change. I knew when I was back in the light but I didn’t know where it had happened. Knowing the point of change didn’t matter though.

What did matter was the thing that hit me. As I went through the transition back into light the thing that I knew but had yet to surface became clear. It was about stories.

Story is our means to make sense of our world. I realised that there are essentially two kinds of stories: monster stories and love stories – the mist and the light. Monster stories are about a challenge of overcoming a beast in our lives; real monster or metaphorical. Bond, Breaking Bad, Jurassic Park, you name it.

Love stories are very different; a reconciliation of the separated. Boy meets girl, lost lovers reunited in some way. My ability to name a good love story straight off might tell me something…

We get used to telling and hearing stories. Myth is there to help us make sense and to carry learning. My real thought this morning was more than this though. It was that stories are really for more than just telling. Stories are ultimately for living.

We tell stories in order to be able to live them when we are ready. We live through the narrative to learn a different way of living.

I realised that we are telling a lot of monster stories. Our lives and our kids lives are full of them. The papers are full of them. Even Facebook is full of them.

Telling and hearing are all very well but the challenge is to stop telling the monster stories and to start living them. The shared myth-kitty of monsters is there to help us all see that the real challenge is to overcome our own monsters. Instead of re-living someone else’s story for entertainment, again and again, we need to face our own monster challenges and evolve through them.

In a world of separation monster stories are essential because they have a role of helping us to overcome the reasons for our separation. We are separated because we live in fear.


There’s a problem here though – it’s often difficult to see what it is about the story that is important to us. Take our village goose – the Sandon Goose – shot dead in a “drive-by” incident on Sunday, a week ago. It has become an international story. What has struck me most so far was reading the comments on the Daily Mail website last Friday. We have effectively created a container here into which people pour their fear. For example, there were many comments online calling out how evil other people were. One, for example, said “I hate most human beings..” (122 likes and counting). Another – “This is the type of children raised today. Vile, evil creatures..” (92 likes). I could go on. Who are these people hating comments really about?

This story has become a monster story – a story about the monsters who killed the goose but then also about the monsters people see in society and in ourselves. Why else do people get so angry if they do not see something deeper for them that is kindled by the surface story? This is one animal, albeit with bags of character, in a small village after all. Lots of animals get killed in the countryside every day. There is a deeper reason why the shooting of the white goose becomes a much bigger story.

In order to re-unite ourselves we have to live and understand these stories first. The monsters have to be dealt with. To live the monster story we have to understand our own monsters and our fear of them. As long as these monsters remain in our lives, we will remain in fear and separation.

It’s choice we have but remember – victims of fear are easily manipulated – manipulation by fear is a common ploy – of politicians and bosses alike. If we don’t live the monster stories but instead just listen to the Disney version we are all a great deal poorer.

At the same time, we need to listen to and tell more love stories so that we, in turn, can start living them. We need more love stories so that more and more of us can live out stories that re-unite the separated in life.

With the monsters that psychologically dominate us finally gone, we can start living more of these stories of love.

That is why story is so important.


…as a Goose postscript today (5th March) it turns out (there was an exhumation and a post mortem) that the Goose wasn’t shot after all. So all these monster stories about the killers of the goose were actually about a goose that wasn’t shot at all. No shooting, no killers, no monsters but still a story. Still wondering what the story is really about?

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