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The importance of stories in life

Geoff Cooper
Mid Level Geoff

It is widely accepted that animals operate based on instinct—a set of innate behaviors that require no learning or practice. This simplicity exempts creatures in the animal kingdom from many human experiences such as anxiety and indecision. For instance, birds migrate south without year-long deliberation. They are not burdened with pondering grand ambitions or future aspirations; their focus lies primarily on daily survival.

While we may feel that way sometimes, human beings aren’t quite so blessed with simplicity. We dream of the future and work towards our aspirations, and this requires a level of flexibility that isn’t always conducive to an instinctual response. Given that, we’ve learned to store our collective knowledge and wisdom within stories. These narratives can provide a foundation for how to live and a guiding light in darker times. They can also instill a sense of hope — hope that even at their worst, our lives can improve if we overcome the obstacles in our way.

Now, to be clear, none of us will enter a labyrinth to confront a minotaur, defend Helm’s Deep against an army of orcs, or join forces with gods and heroes to defeat Thanos. However, the relatability of these stories does not stem from their circumstances but from the underlying metaphors they represent. The monsters we confront symbolize our inner struggles, making the hero’s journey a compelling narrative of self-discovery—a journey inherent to every individual.

So, what motivates us to confront these internal foes? What propels us on this adventure? Undoubtedly, it is the characters within these stories. Their personalities, emotions, and responses to challenges become a source of inspiration during difficult times. Whether these characters are real or imaginary, they serve as beacons that guide us toward perseverance and integrity, even when faced with easier alternatives. Moreover, they provide a sense of stability and reassurance in a world fraught with uncertainty.

This is exactly why heroes are often portrayed as paragons of human virtue. Icons like Captain America and Superman represent ideals to strive for, acknowledging that perfection may be unattainable—and that’s okay. 

Being a good person and leading a meaningful life doesn’t require monumental feats like destroying a Death Star or defeating the Galactic Empire. Though, if you do want to live a fulfilling life, don’t take any notes from more recent iterations of Luke Skywalker. Even if you technically do the right thing in the end, it’s pretty uncool to abandon everyone you care about in favor of dying alone. 

Ultimately, the true value of stories lies not just in their entertainment but in their ability to shape our perspectives, influence our actions, and enrich our lives with meaning and purpose. 

They remind us that we can make an impact through our choices and the values we uphold. This is the importance of stories. 

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