“Whoever has learned to love new thoughts can never be threatened by them.” – Deepak Chopra
“Never apologize for being sensitive or emotional. Let this be a sign that you’ve got a big heart and aren’t afraid to let others see it. Showing your emotions is a sign of strength.” – Brigitte Nicole
“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” – Stephen King
Just lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about the power of literature. It’s partly because I’m working on a novel. However, I’m surrounded by story telling all the time, because I also teach theatre classes at the local community college. In each of the three classes we discuss the story arcs, character motivations, and themes of the stories. These are things I’ve always been interested in from a young age when my parents introduced me to fairy tales. The best most enduring stories are based on characters who grow while facing everyday challenges. In my opinion, what is the point of telling the story if the characters don’t learn anything?
The thing I love about literature is that we can learn something from the trials and tribulations of the characters and as a result not have to go through the same horrible situations ourselves. We can embrace the lessons as the characters make their choices and grow. What a relief. We don’t have to experience every possible challenge ourselves.
Last week I wrote about being a late bloomer and this past weekend my husband and I went to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which was a delightful experience and an affirmation that growing older doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. It’s a continuation of the first movie in which a group of elderly people from England, who for one reason and another, choose to retire in India. They are attracted to ads for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, because the room rates are very reasonable. The hotel proprietor is a young idealistic young man who has a dream, but not much talent for making his dream work. So there are lots of things to adjust to for the retirees. What makes the story endearing is the way the characters from such vastly different cultures learn from each other. And they learn important things about themselves as well. One of the most profound things they learn is that they can still grow and make a contribution. My favorite exchanges from that movie is this: Evelyn says, “Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected,” to which Muriel replies, “Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.” An affirmation that not everything that happens unexpectedly is bad.
Both movies are about ordinary people trying to make sense out of the things life throws in their path. Isn’t that what we are each faced with on a regular basis? Each day we wake up and must put one foot in front of the other in new tracks if we want to accomplish our goals. Not everyone does this for one reason or another. Some get up and put one foot in front of the other in the same old tracks and dig themselves into deeper and deeper boring, meaningless lives. But the thing I loved about the second movie was that most of the characters realized that it’s never too late to reinvent your life. My favorite quote from the second movie is spoken again by Evelyn, “How many new lives can we have? As many as we like.” I agree with her. We can climb out of the rut we’ve dug for ourselves and invent a new more meaningful life for ourselves if we have the courage to do so.
Some people might say I’m silly or crazy for not facing the real world but for me, literature helps me make sense of my life whether I’m reading the book or writing it. What some people call the real world can be a cruel place. Literature, and by extension movies and plays, helps me and millions like me find a way to wend our way toward peace. The best stories, in my opinion, point us toward triumph not destruction, even if the triumphs are small.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015