What Is A Story?

In teaching Inductive Bible Study for years, and how to properly interpret the Holy Bible, the most fundamental important aspect of interpreting the scriptures is that everything was written by a real person, with real problems, with real goals, in a real place, at a real time in history. Have you ever gone to one of those bible studies, you know, where everyone sits in a circle, someone reads a verse and says, “So what does this passage mean to you?” I don’t know about you, but I could care less about what it means to me. I care what it meant to the person who originally wrote it. I want his or her thoughts conveyed on paper to be understood in my mind correctly. Then, once interpreted correctly, I can bridge the gap from their time to now and apply what I learned.

On that note, humorously, what does story mean to me? It’s taking what is in my mind – my vision, my tale, my life, my feelings, my love, my affections, my hatred, my pain, and my joys; transferring them to the written page through my eyes and hands in a way that when read through the eyes of the reader it would be interpreted the same way in his or her mind. Story then is the interpretation of life itself.

Have you ever wondered why they call the individual levels of a building, stories? In the Middle-Ages, at the time when the usage came to be circa 1400 or 1500’s, the general population was illiterate. Some of the religious began to draw biblical stories on the side of their homes. Many of them had structures with more than 2 floors, creating more than a single ‘story’. When asked where they lived, they said the building with the stories. His room was on the second or third ‘story’. It is quite an interesting way of getting someone’s idea out to be interpreted for others, especially when they cannot read. Maybe in some ways that is how we have gotten the reason for the saying: ‘A picture is worth more than a thousand words.’ But not only that, the individual windows of a building are the eyes into the soul of those rooms within. If looking out from afar, each window has its own tale and in whole makes up the novel of the building.

With movies I believe this falls short. When we watch a movie, whether we are in the theater or in our living room, we are witnessing the writers version and interpretation of what is in their minds. This eliminates the need for us to interpret it, and think for ourselves. No imagination is necessary. A-musement in every sense of the word.

From the author/writer point of view, how can we in such a visual age harness the power of imagination and creativity in a way that we can express it to others so that they can not only know, but feel what we are trying to convey? One way to increase our level of imagination and creativity is to read more and watch television less. Use our own imaginations in the mind in place of those we see through the lens of the screen.

Why is imagination and creativity being stifled as we get older? One of the main reasons is if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original. Kids are not afraid to be wrong. They don’t have a fear of embarrassment or making a mistake. Those fears are learned in education systems or by overzealous parenting. Kids have been educated out of their creativity for I would imagine hundreds of years. When did we become afraid of being wrong and making mistakes? Think I am wrong? Then why are all education systems hierarchy focus on mathematics, languages, history, and then at the bottom of the pile is the arts. Then in the age of budget cuts, the ones that get easily eliminated are the arts. Probably band and drama in particular. These which increase our creativity and imagination.

Another thing is that people don’t want to learn new things and enhance their creativity. They are too busy to sit and read a book, learn a new skill, and instead of expanding the mind, people apathetically focus on what they already know, especially when feeling overwhelmed and stressed. People in this category tend to think that creativity is a waste of time, not productive, and not important. I would imagine those people would see prayer as being unimportant or wasting the day.

Fortunately of late I have had a new fondness towards fiction which I haven’t had since I was in high school. I used to love fiction and it really enhanced my creativity as a child. But as I got older I began thinking it was a waste of time, and in reality, was killing my creativity. I first realized this when I started reading the first Harry Potter book and in the first chapter couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that an extremely large bearded man was coming out of the clouds on a motorcycle. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous and therefore stopped reading the book. That was the first chapter.

So I must end this column in fear of making a novel of this blog post. Do something today to increase increase your imagination and creativity. Learn a new artful skill like writing, painting, or a new instrument. Try to take a thought in your head and make it concrete to share with others. See it in your mind, feel it in your heart, and share it with the world. Be the story we are all wanting to read.

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