“Everyone has a story of his own”. What do you understand by that statement? We all know what a story is, but what is a person’s story? Is it the history of his struggle? The battles he’s fighting? His origin? I suppose the immediate answer is that it’s just an explanation for the person’s current state and disposition, presented with short parts, excerpts taken from his screenplay from scenes already played out. That’s the only version of the definition of a person’s story that can make it be considered at least somewhat interesting, universally. But I look at stories, people’s stories differently.
I think it’s fair to say that everyone has big things happening in his life every now and then, both miracles and tragedies. You see then why I don’t find stories composed only of those moments so fascinating. If you heard enough of them, if you know how your own story is constructed, all stories built in that fashion become universal, indistinguishable. There are two things, that truly determine the value of a story, be it real or fictional: the world, and I’ll talk about it in a future post, and the context.
And what is context to me? If I were forced to come up with a precise definition, the closest I could get would be saying, that the context is every fact, every bit of information we can gather that contributed to every action and decision that the main character made. But it’s not precise enough, I understand. So let me explain using an example.
My Grandpa was the only member of my family who enjoyed nature like I did. We used to go fishing together, we were biking together from time to time, and a couple of times, we went camping. Late at night, accompanied by a campfire and a few cold ones, we talked about, you know, stuff. Grandpa used to tell me things from his childhood, about the village he grew up in. Now, it was on purpose that I used the word “things”, and not “stories”. The purpose being the fact, that they weren’t necessarily really stories. Often, just single, small things that he noticed when he was a kid, and for some reason, he still remembered. He told me who used to have the fastest horse in the village. Where was his favourite spot to eat breakfast on a summer morning. The time his Grandpa carved new benches for the church. And then what happened later on in his life, where he went to school, where he moved to, where he used to buy the best pork, who were his new neighbours, which way to and from school was his favourite, where was his favourite park. The normal stuff, the things that everyone can relate too. That made this whole picture so easy to connect with, so familiar. Because I too have my favourite park. I had my favourite way to and from school. I knew some interesting facts about my Grandpa…
He took me once to his hometown. You wouldn’t believe how intense this experience was. I had the context, now I had the world before my eyes. My Grandfather’s story became real. This was the first time that I fully and really experienced the feeling that the internet decided to call “sonder“. In short, it’s described as the realization that people around have their own, vivid and exciting lives, and that you, with your own story are only a small part of it. Tell me this isn’t one of the most amazing feelings one can experience?
Do you realize, how huge this is? How much of the humanity is being wasted as we sit here? To say that everyone has a story is a disastrous understatement. Everyone is a living, walking encyclopedia of his or her own world. Unique, original.
It comes down to this sad point: everything that you ever think of, every idea you ever had, every memory you ever made, every dream, every fear, every joke, your own perspective on every story you have ever been a part of, all of that, unless it’s passed on in your own words, dies with you. Everything you decided not to share with anybody is going to disappear from the world. Lost forever. This is the saddest thing I can think of.
Think about how much knowledge has irreversibly vanished. How much more we could know.
Maybe you think it’s not worth knowing? After all, objectively, how much value to the world can the information about my Grandpa’s Grandpa carving benches for a local church hold? None, you might think. I might think it too. But then why I still remember this, years after hearing about it? Who else remembers this? Will I be the last person to know where those benches came from? Do you realize how big of a responsibility this is? Not because the bench is so special, but because it was a part of someone’s life, an important prop, an object of focus, that at one point, was the most important thing in the world to someone. And after my Grandpa, after me, all they will be is an obstacle, an old, used, and from the sight of it possibly uncomfortable stool that will be replaced as soon as the church will be able to afford it.
They’ll probably burn them. Can you imagine that? This will be the death of that part of a story of a man I never met, but whose legacy influenced my family generations down the line.
Now think about all the “burned benches” since the dawn of civilization. Because even accepting the fact, that one day the life of my great-great-grandfather will be reduced to the hyphen between the dates on his gravestone, the knowledge of his existence will be preserved. But the people who predate the scribes and history books, or didn’t turn out to be important enough to be noticed by historians, never had the access to that privilege. Billions of encyclopedias lost in time. The knowledge of civilizations vanished. Not the knowledge of their achievements and greatest accomplishments, not in the most part. But the important, human knowledge: where was their favourite park, where were they eating breakfasts on summer mornings, and who had the fastest goddamn horse in the village. Because after all, civilizations are made of individuals. And to understand humanity, you must understand where each individual came from.
Otherwise we will forever remain only a bunch of self-centered idiots, who never learn from their ancestors mistakes and experiences. And I’m tired of being an idiot.
“(…)All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott.