Every day, we tell ourselves countless stories.
We tell ourselves the story of who we are and what we to.
We tell the story of our future plans and our past sufferings.
When we speak about past loves, we conjure a story, too.
Do you want to be a successful something or other?
To achieve a particular feat?
To publish a novel or poetry collection?
To become wealthy?
To meet your soulmate?
All of these are stories you wait to happen to you.
Every brand whose product you buy is a story—a collective story other people believe in.
Without our collective belief in it, that brand would not exist.
Same for our institutions, our sports leagues, our systems.
Your country and your city are stories, too.
Going to university is a story.
Getting married is a story.
Dreaming of having a family of your own one day is a story.
Human rights is a story, too–a beautiful story we need more than any other.
And then there are all the stories we consume every day—books, shows, movies, songs, plays.
We move through a universe of personal and collective stories–internal stories and and external ones.
Our civilization is built of stories.
What about me?
What story do I tell myself?
The story I tell myself is that I am a writer and I write as a way of life.
A story is not only an exercise in imagination.
It’s a mesh of feelings, sensations, and desires.
It’s lots of chapters, lots of conflicts, lots of hard work.
It’s also a reality that we make happen by believing in it.
Telling ourselves stories is not merely an act of deluding ourselves.
It’s a way of shaping reality.
It’s what we’ve been doing for tens of thousands of years.
It’s what separates us from other life forms on this planet.
And what enables us to cooperate so effectively in large numbers.
Sometimes we tell ourselves sad stories.
We tell ourselves that we are weaker, poorer, sadder than others.
Sometimes we tell ourselves angry, jealous, or selfish stories.
We tell ourselves that we didn’t get what we rightly deserved.
Or that others are standing in our way.
But we can also tell ourselves powerful, inspiring stories.
That we can maintain peace, land on the Moon, or vaccinate the entire world against the coronavirus.
Without collective stories, we would be worse than we are.
We keep telling ourselves stories, even today, in the age of advanced neuroscience—when we know that we are telling ourselves stories.
Stories keep us going–when the waters are calm, but also when the seas are rough.
Stories remind us, even when we are standing still, that we will be moving again soon.
We may not share the same beliefs and values.
We may not go about things the same way.
But we all believe in stories.
We believe in stories because stories keep us going.
As C.K. Chesterton said,
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Let’s tell ourselves good stories.
The kind of stories that have room enough in them for others, too.