Stories, they’re everywhere suddenly.
What’s your story? Tell your story (with our new improved hairspray). What does your loo say about you?
There is nothing wrong with stories. Real stories are somehow alive and can guide and inspire me, and can help me learn how to live my own vivid story that sucks up life’s juicy struggle and maybe weaves something worth remembering. That is good art. The problem is with crappy stories.
Brands seem to want to tell me their story so that I can buy their product and somehow tell my own story with it. But these mass market stories are all made up; they neither tell the truth directly, nor refer to any secret, hidden truth. They are just nonsense – concocted cojones, decorated business propositions. Red Bull would love me to see myself as a “top performer” as it wants me to keep buying energy drinks. It’s what they do, and it would be my own mistake to encourage it by even listening.
Less sneakily, family and friends and colleagues prefer to have an image in their mind of what I’m like, or else there’s too much to think about. That’s OK, just as long as I don’t mistake their own pictures of me as real.
But I usually do.
I think one reason might be because the approach fits me quite well: I make up stories about myself (and other people) all the time, and tell them to myself constantly. Sometimes a hero, sometimes a loser. Mostly fabricated.
Crappy stories are fixed and utterly misleading, like old maps of a changing landscape. Ever followed Sat-Nav into a dead end? “That wall shouldn’t BE there!” The wall is wrong, surely. Making the mistake of believing that the maps are the territory, and then clinging on to them, acts like a good old-fashioned kneecapping – freedom of the spirit is crippled. The moment I utter something like “that’s just the kind of person I am”, or describe myself as anything ending in ‘-er’, then I have launched into a crappy story that will make me wage war with reality.
So, brand stories mimic my terrible habit of telling myself convincing lies, and so they find open ears. But why on earth is there an appetite for crappy stories and convincing lies in the first place?
I think that crappy stories are a reassuring nest I can cling to. Comfort, but at the price of spending life as a mere hatchling that needs to be fed worms in order to carry on existing. If that comfort wasn’t so numbing, I suspect it would really hurt.
It’s the comfort of an illusion of certainty, the convenience of utterly accepting a widely broadcast and very rational explanation of “how things are”, when they aren’t.
Perhaps freedom might entail freedom from my crappy stories, about life and who I am and who I should be. What I was last week is gone, unless I drag some story of it along with me. What am I this morning with the stories stripped away?
Once I manage to let go of what I think I know, I might cease struggling and give imagination and possibility a chance to work their magic. A highly rigid and heavy form of certainty is replaced by an uplifting faith that this magic, which irresistibly intermingles with the magic of others, will allow me to fly, through sunshine and storms.
Ditching Red Bull gives you wings.