28 August 2014

Blog #3 | The Power of Story

When I think about things that are powerful, the first things that comes to mind are superheroes, weapons, military, and my wife after I've done something stupid. You know, people and things that can affect physical damage.

You do NOT want to mess with these tough hombres. Incidentally, when I do something stupid, my wife resembles the big green guy in the back..."ASHLEY SMASH!" | Image Courtesy HDWallpaper.com

But, the more I think about it, the more I realize I'm confusing "power" for "strength". My handy-dandy computer dictionary provided a pretty swell definition of power:

It's embarrassing for an English teacher to totally misunderstand the definition of such a common word. | Photo Courtesy iMac Dictionary

After reading this definition, it made me think about the movie Book of Eli, which is all about how powerful a particular book is, and how it influenced the behavior of others. The stories contained in the book Eli carries around are powerful enough to convince him to trek across a hostile country, rife with dangerous killers and a complete lack of food and water, as well as push others to wage war to get the book from him. Of course, YouTube can do a better job of showing you how intense the story is:

Stories--especially stories that revolve around faith and spirituality--can drive groups and nations to do incredible, and sometimes horrifying, things.

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A story's power derives from the moral it teaches and the emotion it evokes.

From the fairy tales of yore to the Dr. Seuss rhymes of today, children's stories teach a culture's little ones valuable lessons. Granted, Grimm's stories are a wee bit more gruesome and terrifying than anything written today.

Take Krampus, the Christmas Demon, for example. Cooked up from Norse Mythology, Krampus is good ol' St. Nick's counterpart. Whereas Santa rewards the good boys and girls on Christmas Eve, Krampus beats the naughty kids until they're good.

The little tykes are terrified, and as a result, they're well-behaved for parents. Tell me that isn't powerful!

However, some stories hold more power over certain people than others. Krampus may scare a two-year old into behaving, but it may take more for me to prevent my stockings from filling with coal.

Take Les Miserables for example. 

Just this summer, I went to Broadway with some students and saw the revival. Now, I've watched recordings of the stage version for years--and loved every minute--but it never brought me to the point of tears. Not when Fantine dies, not when Eponine gets shot, not even when Jean Valjean dies.

But when little Gavroche climbed the barricade to get some more ammo for the troops, the hair stood up on the back of my neck.

My heart jumped into my throat and choked me when I heard the first shot ring out.

I stopped breathing as I saw him crest the barricade, injured but triumphant.

And I completely lost my crap when the second shot fired. 
Image Courtesy IMGFave
No, it looked more like this: 
Image Courtesy the Overby Family Adoption Blog

Some of the impact came from seeing the performance live, but the tragedy was so much more real, so powerful because I'm a new daddy, and I saw my own son in that little boy onstage. I thought, "Wow! That's somebody's little boy! I have a little boy. How cool. Oops, the little boy is shot and killed...what if MY little boy was shot and killed..."

See, now you feel bad for mocking my snot bubbles.

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Indeed, stories are powerful things. They influence the behavior, perceptions, and emotions of people all over the world.

The trick, however, is to be aware of that power, because it can be used for both good and evil, creation and destruction, or harmony and conflict.

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