Stories teach us what it means to be human. A good story should inform you, in at least some little way, why you’re here. That’s what we’re all looking for—we just want to understand the litany of questions that inevitably come to any self-aware being: Who am I? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with my time while it lasts?
We can never fully understand the meaning of life. There are as many theories as there are grains of sand on the beach; perhaps the most famous answer being the number 42 from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Douglas Adams posited that having the answer didn’t mean anything if we didn’t fully understand the question itself.
All of existence is too vast to be understood by any one person at any given moment in time. But there must be ways for us to make enough sense of things to go on with our lives. A scene from the movie Man of Steel comes to mind, with young Clark Kent cowering in a closet unable to face the world. He says to his mother outside, “The world’s too big, Ma.” And she simply replies, “Then make it small.”
For us to “make it small,” we need to face the fact that we can only comprehend the human perspective, which is only a fraction of all of the existence of the universe. This perspective is not a static system. We cannot simply move linearly in our understanding and reach our goal, and say, “That’s it, we got it.” The end goal of understanding is dynamic; it is constantly changing as humanity grows and evolves with each passing day, each passing hour. We can only truly understand our current perspective in the now.
A single human is insignificant in the scheme of things. Traveled the world? That’s great. Made tons of friends? That’s cute. Regardless, there are now seven billion people in the world; one person cannot possibility hope to have a significant grasp on the overall human perspective. Think you know it all? You’re not even close. We need perspective; we need each other.
Which brings us back to stories and fiction. As humans, stories are extremely important to us. Much more than simple escapism, stories allow us to expand our perspective beyond ourselves as we all collectively reshape and reframe the human perspective day after day. Fiction mixes the real with the impossible, giving us an infinite amount of worlds to explore; however, it all comes back to exploring what is true.
Stephen King once said:
“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
Ultimately, we need something outside of ourselves to add to our own personal perspectives in order to grow and thrive. Like children on a merry go round from bygone days, we reach for that golden ring; but we will never get it. However, we keep trying and we will never stop, because that’s part of what it means to be human.