What is your favorite novel? Your favorite movie? Song? Play? What about your most loathed Disney antagonist? Or the television show that makes you laugh so hard you cry?
If you're like me, every one of those answers would require several minutes, if not days of deep thought. It's not that I can't compare Beloved and Light in August or Scar and Ursula, I just struggle settling on a single one. After all, how many books have you read? Probably less than the number of songs you've heard.
I heard an interesting statistic the other day: The average American spends eight hours a day reading, watching, or listening to stories. Whether it's watching the news when you get home from work, reading before you go to bed, or listening to your friend talk about the cute guy who glanced her way in math class earlier, stories define our every day lives.
So what if I asked you what you believe is the most important story of your lifetime? If you're religious you might answer the Bible or the Qur'an. If you're 14 you might answer Harry Potter. The possibilities are endless and there is no right answer. So why did I ask? Because I believe stories are at the heart of what it means to be human. From the cave paintings to Trajan's column to Hollywood, every society across time has had story at its center. After all, whatever religion you belong to has a story of creation or beginning. Whether God made man from dust or the Water Beetle brought mud from the depths of the ocean to form the lands as the Cherokee belief holds, humans and the earth are the great creation. By design, we are the inheritors of the world. Being created, however, does not define a human. The animals, plants, viruses, air, water and fire are creations as well. So what separates people? Stories hold the answer.
On the most basic level, in order for a story to be shared, somebody must record it. Today we pay ten dollars to go to a movie, twenty for a book, and a few hundred for a television, all to get our fix of stories. But who created those stories? Along the way there was a filmmaker, an author, an engineer, each a component of the ultimate story. For that is what people are. We are the created, but we are also the creators. For every person there is a Narnia. For every planet a Yoknapatawpha County. For every star a Hundred-Acre Wood. You've told your story to friends and strangers, and you've heard the stories of thousands.
It is a story that defines who we are. Yours, mine, and every one we have heard that changes us in some way. We are the creators and the created. The talkers and the listeners. The actors and the audience. So read a book, or write a poem, or catch up on the news, and celebrate being human.