I have forgotten many of the enjoyable stories of my life. Life is all about stories. Any space traveler from Mars or Pluto (I still consider you a planet in my heart, buddy!) could pick that up about our culture just by spending a few moments eavesdropping on a convo or two at the local caffeinating hole. Come on now, you know you’ve done it a time or two yourself. So please don’t give into Martian stereotyping. It’s not a pretty color on you.
But just by paying attention to just about any average conversation at Target, Thomas Hammer, or BK could lead us to the conclusion that we as a culture value stories. (I suppose you could actually take part in the conversation too…but sadly people don’t tend to respond positively when I butt in on their conversations. I suppose it helps if you know them to begin with, eh?) Ask someone about how they’ve been doing, and they’ll more than likely paint you a picture using story.
How do we as a culture spend a lot of our time? Investing into stories. The average American invests roughly 28 hours per week into the magic box of joy that we call the television (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/med_tel_vie-media-television-viewing). Not bad, eh? Psychologist Malcolm Gladwell believes in something he calls the Rule of 10,000. This rule states that we maintain mastery over something (typically a skill, instrument, talent, etc.) after we have invested 10,000 hours into that particular area.
If the Rule of 10,000 holds true, then the average American is a master of the television after 7 years of television watching. And I would suppose it takes us at least that long to figure out what the really good channels are – like ESPN, OWN, and Animal Planet – and how to use the remote control without having to look at it – an art in itself. But think about hist; after 7 years you are the Jedi of the television world. (Now if only we could actually learn to pick stuff up with our mind by watching the magic TV box! But either way, give yourself a pat on the back. Yoda would be proud.)
As opposed to being a master button-pusher, as previously hypothesized, I believe we are masters of story.We just NEED to invest ourselves into DWTS, American Idol, or the latest CSI or NCSI creation. The characters – or reality peoples acting like humans acting like people – become more than just abstract elements interacting with the creative recesses of our minds. Rather, the story and the character’s need to succeed in whatever death-defying, or comical/ironic situation they find themselves in becomes critical to our own success and happiness in the world outside the magic box.
The thing I find most interesting is that as their stories become more and more interesting, my life becomes less and less interesting. This is evidenced by the fact that I invest more time into their lives and less into my own. The juxtaposition of value takes place in the physical world around me, where I spend as much time as possible watching (Two episodes on Hulu this week? YES!), while simultaneously putting the thing I like to refer to as my personal life on hold. Even more so than in the physical world, I invest my mind time – which really isn’t always that valuable; let’s just be honest – into the success or failure of these characters’ endeavors.
While considering this juxtaposition of significance, I realize that I have become more obsessed with fictional characters’ nonexistent existence than with my own stories. This weekend I had to pleasure of meeting a group of new family members/co-workers. Through one of the meet-and-greet activities that I love making my students play, but don’t necessarily feel comfortable enough to play myself, I came to a startling realization. There are interesting people around me. And I’m not talking about the type of interesting where we feel like they should have their own reality TV shows or anything – though you can pretty much make a show about anything these days. Rather, there are some truly intriguing individuals who have lived some incredible stories out in their day-to-day lives.
And if I were truly to follow the rabbit-hole a little further, I realize that I too have lived some interesting stories. Maybe not exactly worthy of filling a primetime slot on NBC or anything, but all-in-all not too bad. Yet, part of my problem is that I have spent so much time investing into others’ existence (or theoretical existence), that many of the stories of my life have been mossed over. And, it is now time to begin removing the moss and cobwebs from those stories.
In order to remember the things of his life, Bob Goff writes down memories whenever they pop into his mind. This allows him to be able to truly engage his life. He’s not living anyone else’s stories anymore. And this, too, has become my aim. I am going to remember the things that are truly important…or not. But at least, if they’re not important – as many of us would agree most of the stuff on the magic TV box is not – they are MY not important stories. It at least feels better that way.
Here’s a few things I’ve remember. Important? Doubtful. But mine? Yes.
I’ve been in a Rebecca St. James music video.
I got lost at Disneyland…twice. Once as a high schooler.
I lied about reading an assigned portion of the Bible…in Bible College.
I have a really hard time throwing away shoes.