All the world’s a stage and as players we fill many roles
"Whose story are we in?" My memory says that it was Frodo who asked that question in Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." I have always liked that question. It can be answered on many different levels.
One might talk about one's own personal story, a family story, the story of a generation and a nation, or the story of the universe. Perhaps it is a story of war and peace, of loss and gain, or fear and hope.
Stories serve many functions. For example, they have the power of creating or shaping community and clarifying one's identity. Tales imply some kind of conflict that can lead to a change or transformation in lives. Stories depict relationships with all their noble and ignoble qualities, conscious and unconscious, and curious entanglements.
But whose story are we in? What role do we have?
One might be in several stories at the same time. Falstaff can appear in more than one of Shakespeare's plays; Miss Marple appears in story after story by Agatha Christie. Your friend may be playing different roles in various parts of her life simultaneously.
But that initial question still tugs at us. Whose story are we in? Is there a large story that encompasses all the other stories? Is there a cosmic story? Might it be the story of emergent evolution? Or the story of diversity seeking acceptance? Or the story of ecological struggle for balance and survival? Or the story of multinational corporatism?
Someone once said that nearly every story is a quest -- a quest for truth, romance, treasure, a solution to a mystery, a quest for meaning and value; it's the search for a place where one belongs, where one is valued; or the pursuit of justice.
Within all these versions of story one looks for a centering theme, an organizing principle, a point of view. Today for many people the centering ideal may be the nation. National loyalty can evoke patriotism and self-sacrifice and other significant values. But it is a story, I believe, that can distort other values and divide the world between "us" and "them."
For others the central theme of the story we are in may be success in the marketplace. It is a story that binds one to the market and the acquisition of goods. One may rationalize that activity by saying that it ultimately benefits the world as a whole. But still, if the organizing principle of the story is market success, concern for others is often neglected.
Personally, I think an all-inclusive story is the most desirable and worthy. I think of it as a story that transcends nationalism and economics. It is a story that has many subplots including the diversity of peoples and cultures. I think of it as a story that is a quest for adventure, peace, justice, art and beauty. There is room for many variations in that inclusive tale.
The Rev. Fritz Fritschel is retired as a Lutheran minister.