The Great Thing About Stories

The more crime movies you watch, the better you’ll get at spotting the culprit in advance. Having watched Tatort (“Crime Scene”), the longest-running German TV drama, for over 30 years, my mom usually knows within a few minutes. She’s the Sherlock Holmes of watching Sherlock Holmes, if you will — and yet, decades later, she is still watching. Why?

Well, you never know for sure, do you? The only way to really find out is to watch until the end, and then, you’ll either get the satisfaction of being right or the joy of being surprised. Stories are a win-win situation.

And after you’ve seen the whole thing? Why watch something twice? For one, it might teach you something new, not because the story has changed but because you have. “You can never step in the same water twice, my friend,” Bruce Lee used to say.

For another, however, since you now know how it ends, you also know how it makes you feel. Therefore, the story will go right into your roster of “use in case of…” medication. Emotional medication, that is. Stories help us heal because they help us process. I can watch Star Wars a million times and still feel inspired, if every time for a different reason and on a different occasion.

So actually, a great story is win-win-win-win. There’s always an element of novelty and an element of comfort, and though we often don’t know which one we’ll get, the prospect of either is usually enough to keep us returning, be it to a new story or a familiar one.

Stories are how we make change, but they are also how we change. Sometimes, the change is just a smile, and sometimes, it is a whole new identity. But whatever change we seek, there’s a story out there to guide us through it. Choose a life of stories.