I believe in the transportive power of storytelling.
From cave paintings to the great American novel, it’s been a cornerstone of civilization. Storytelling is how we’ve passed on knowledge, kept culture alive, connected with fellow man and touched the divine. The simple yet complex act is uniquely, profoundly human.
As a child, I was curious but at times painfully shy. I longed for the new but felt too inhibited to go find it. Books offered a glimpse of something else. A mythical kingdom or thrilling adventure was never more than a page away.
But if books were my first love, movies became my great love. To watch a movie for me was to give myself over wholly to the story. The flicker of the projector heralded the arrival of a new world and I succumbed completely to it, a world existing only on a thin layer of film but no less real than the one in which I lived. When life became overwhelming, I found solace within the darkened walls of a movie theater. It soothed the angst of breakups and work and all the general pangs of life. In a way that no book or play could, movies took me out of myself.
Now, years later, I work in Hollywood, helping create those stories I love so dearly. It’s a tough business, and for all the fun I’ve had, I’ve also been discouraged and disillusioned at times. But it was here that I witnessed the full power storytelling wields.
I had been working on a popular sitcom when I received a call from the Make-A-Wish Foundation; a sick child who loved our show wanted to visit, and I happily obliged. When the family arrived at our stage, it turned out that there were two kids – fraternal twins, each dying of a different disease. This agony struck me suddenly and deeply. I cannot fathom how their parents coped. But the instant they walked onto stage, none of that mattered – they were merely two kids living their favorite story. Their parents constantly wept for joy at seeing their children so happy. For a few blissful hours, these children simply weren’t sick. I realized at that moment that storytelling may not be able to save a life, but it can make that life worth living.
Whether a sweeping epic or a simple parable, stories have often helped me understand myself in ways no introspection or analysis can. Even the man who loves his life completely still needs an escape from time to time, and I believe it is a noble act indeed to open a doorway through which he may escape. For me, the day a well-told story fails to enchant me is the day the world has no more secrets to reveal. I’m confident that day will never come.
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