I don’t usually cross-post, but this topic has more than one direction. It also appears in a newsletter I compile for St. Paul’s in the Pines Episcopal Church.
I like a mystery. I was raised on Agatha Christie and Mary Stewart. I watch them on TV. And, I write mysteries myself. So, why the profound interest in the fictional disasters and deaths of people I will never know?
Because in figuring out the puzzles in the stories, or creating puzzles for others, I get to explore human relationships. And in that exploration comes truth. Truth about people, about how relationships and emotions work, truth about life.
I ran across a person recently who openly berated me for not watching the news on TV. (I hadn’t said I didn’t, but that’s a different issue.)
He said, “You only know what you read.” (again, another discussion could focus on the fact that written news goes into deeper depth.)
But what I wanted to say, and sadly didn’t, was that fiction, while only limitedly a source of facts, is often a great source of truth. Stories are told to convey the very things I mentioned at the top. Behavior. Emotion. Relationships. Ideas. Concepts. In short, stories convey the truths of people. Or at least, they can. And those are the kind of stories I like to read and write.
The person speaking to me was very proud of the fact that what he knew came from his experience and TV. Personal experience is great, but it is limited in that it is one-sided and tied to the places one has personally been. Books – and other means of telling stories – take us to other people’s experiences. We get to see more than our own point of view, for better or for worse.
It happens that stories were greatly used by someone my conversation partner admired. Jesus used many parables to illustrate his points. And parables are distinctly defined as stories, not facts.
Truth can be found in jokes. Profoundness can be found in puns and homilies in war flicks. People of earth have communicated news and truths through words since they first decided ‘ugh!’ was used to describe something they didn’t like.
Words are thought of as written, like this column. But you are reading it on a screen. It could be illustrated with graphics or even an animation. And it could be shown to you on a news broadcast (however far-fetched that is). The point is, regardless of the tool or the medium, it’s all words. And the same care and deep thought should go into each and every one of those words when we share them. Especially if we are trying to convey truth.
I like mysteries. Humanity is life’s great mystery, and I view God as the author. While I never expect to solve this mystery, my hope is that by reading and writing about it, I can illuminate things a little and add a bit of truth to the pile.