Saturday, February 04, 2012

There Are Seven Basic Plots - Or Maybe Just One

Some people say there are only seven different stories in the world -- though different people have different lists of what those seven stories are. There's the romance, the quest, rags to riches, growing up, defeating the monster, facing death, and rebirth. Or sometimes we define stories by their conflicts: man against man, man against nature, man against God, man against society, man against woman, man against himself, man against destiny.* (We sure enjoy being against things, don't we?) Sometimes we group these stories into broader groups like tragedy and comedy.

But what if they all have one underlying theme: Am I good enough? Am I good enough to win someone's affection? Am I skilled enough, brave enough to defeat the monster / enemy? Am I resourceful enough, determined enough to complete the quest, or to escape fate? Or the opposite side: Am I bad enough that everything I touch will fall apart? Am I doomed from the outset by some flaw beyond my control? Am I a hero or a villain, a success or a failure? If character is destiny, what is mine?

The best stories also point to something we know by instinct: there is only a thin line separating the good guy from the bad guy. The villain is really our long-lost brother. Or the person we met as a stranger and treated badly was more important to us than we ever could have guessed -- we would have acted very differently if we had known the truth. All of us, at some time, have been the villain in someone else's story -- or maybe even in our own.

The people who followed Jesus told a different story: not that our character is our destiny, but that God's character is our destiny, and God is good. They said that the bedrock reality of the universe is not all of the conflict, but God's love for what he has made, and his faithfulness to what he has made. And that the question of our character -- our aching hope to be good enough -- is to be satisfied by the imprint of God's own spirit on our own, God's own image on our own, strengthening and deepening day by day. It changes how we see the world, and ourselves, and "the villains".

* Some lists have "man in the middle" instead of "man against destiny"; I've found several variations of the basic list.


Martin LaBar said...

Powerful thoughts, as usual.

"God's character is our destiny, and God is good."

Weekend Fisher said...

I'm grateful for the encouragement - as always.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Beautiful and thoughtful post.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Anastasia

Good to see you, as always. Thank you for the kind words.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF