Friday, November 09, 2007

Philosophy of Stories

A wise man once told me -- and I paraphrase, "Philosophy means nothing, we should just tell stories." I tend to view my life through a kaleidoscope of stories. This is why I write and this is why I wish to share some of the stories that have made me who I am. I will focus on the stories that I enjoyed before the age of 19 (that's when I went to college) in this post.

1. Horton Hatches the Egg: When I was very young I had a cassette tape that played this Dr. Seuss classic. I would listen to it every day along with my twin sister. The thing I remember most about the story is Horton's stodgy motto: "I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful one hundred percent." I took that to mean exactly what it means, except that I am not an elephant. I hold myself to a very high standard of doing what I say I will do. I used to think this came about after my experiences selling puppies to deadbeats who never showed up when they said they would. Or simply because I am a Christian and want to give people a good impression of Christianity. But no, the fact is, I hold myself to that standard because a story drilled it into me at a very young age.

2. King Solomon in the Bible: You might wonder what this story had to do with me. Well, I'll tell you. One of my favorite Bible stories was the one about King Solomon's wisdom. I used to ask mom to read that to me from the picture Bible at least once a week. I took it to mean that wisdom is good, but it's difficult to come by. Strangely enough, I always understood why what Solomon did in the story about the baby and the two women who claimed it was a wise way of acting. I also understood that he lost his wisdom in certain circumstances (around attractive women, or just women). We all have weaknesses that outweigh the bounds of our wisdom. Or, rather, we are all fallen and even wisdom cannot keep us from doing stupid and wrong things. We need God's forgiveness.

3. The book of Job: I have read Job more than any other book in the Bible. It's effects on the way I live my life are multiple. First, there's Job's absolute stubbornness. He just would not curse God, and he refused to believe that the reason for his torment was his own doing. I am a stubborn person too. If you say something to me that I completely disagree with then I will not back down. I've got myself into trouble because of that. Which brings me to the next bit of Job's story that shaped the way I am. How I choose my friends. I am very picky about who I am close to. I am not exclusive, however. I will hang out and have a good time with lots of different people. I am picky, however, about who I confide in. Obviously, poorly chosen friends can have a negative effect. So I choose as wisely as I can. The third thing I learned from Job is reverence. Another term for that would be the fear of God. I have never heard God speak from a whirlwind, but I know he can. Then there is the subject of suffering. From the book of Job I learned that suffering is a part of life. You cannot get around it no matter how good you are. Some people choose to whine and complain about suffering. I try my best to accept suffering and make the most of this imperfect life. Lastly, I have the patience of Job. I kid you not.

4. Mouse Soup: My favorite book was Mouse Soup. I memorized it when I was three years old so that I could read it to myself before I knew how to read. Mouse Soup taught me that you do not have to be the biggest and the strongest in order to succeed against bigger and stronger odds. You just have to be a thinker and you have to keep going. Mouse Soup is really a Machiavellian story and it made Machiavellian principles quite clear to me at a very young age. This book also gave me an appreciation for the use of words and stories. A good story can turn a bad day around. In Mouse Soup the stories he tells save the little mouse's life. It's an extreme example, but it works.

5. Frog and Toad books: These books taught me many things about devotion, perseverance and loyalty. I would read them again and again because I so admired the friendship between Frog and Toad. To this day when I think of happiness among friends I think of Frog and Toad. I also think of those two creatures when I have bad dreams or do garden work.

6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Holmes is a remarkable character. Perhaps best known for the phrase, "Truth is stranger than fiction." I always laughed that a fictional character said that. The important thing I learned from Holmes was to pay attention to my surroundings. You can deduce a lot if you just take the time to observe the world around you. It took conscious effort for me to train myself to watch the world and determine the meanings of what I saw. Now it's a subconscious skill.

7. Pinocchio: Pinocchio was the first longish book that I ever read. It's really not that long actually. I adored this story from a very young age, having watched the Disney movie over and over again. But the book is so much better than the movie. People always tell me that "Pinocchio lied." My response was always, "Yeah, and he repented." His life was a long struggle of yearning. Just as my own is. He wanted to be better than he was and he could not be that of his own free will. Nothing Pinocchio did could make him into his desire to be human. Just as nothing I do will make me perfect or wash me clean of my wrongdoings. Only God's grace can do that.

Stories shaped my character and that's why I am a story teller. I'd better get back to writing my book now. What are some of your stories?

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