So I went to a thing. That thing was NerdCon: Stories. I am not going to write a recap post of the convention, because I already did, and you can read it right here at MuggeNet.com. So instead, I’m going to
steal follow what other bloggers have been blogging in response to the event, and that is the subject of “Why Stories Matter.” Throughout the convention at the main stage events, different storytellers would give talks about why stories matter. John Green talked about escapism, Paul Sabourin talked about history, Dylan Marron talked about diversity, etc. Today I’m going to talk about hope.
Hope sucks. Hope is the thing that, when lost or crushed, makes you feel like a snotblob. Sometimes it makes you feel worse than a snotblob. Sometimes it makes you give up and give in. But it is also one of the most valuable and indispensable human emotions.
I once wrote a post about how I buy books way faster than I read them and therefore have an apartment full of unread books. I like it that way because my walls are lined with possibilities. They are lined with hope. Every time I open a new book, I hope that I will learn something new, experience something new, feel something new. But stories don’t just give that kind of hope, they give many many other kinds of hopes, too.
Stories might give you the hope that there are other people in the world who think like you, have the same problems, joys, quirks, grievances, embarrassments, dreams. They might give you the hope that the world could be a better place. If they don’t give you hope that the world could be a better place, they may might give you hope for humanity’s resilience in a crappy world. If they don’t give you hope for humanity’s resilience in a crappy world, they might give you hope that there is something more important than humanity anyway.
At one point in my life I vowed to stop hoping for anything. I had been let down one too many times and decided that it wouldn’t hurt any more if I literally had zero expectations for everything. But guess what? It didn’t work. You can’t avoid hope. It’s why people do the things they do – quoth President Snow in The Hunger Games: “It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.” Hope was able to save Panem, even when everyone was dying and everything was on fire. Hope, bitchez!
I used to think stories mattered to me because they took me away and brought me on adventures. I’ve always been an I-want-adventure-in-the-great-wide-somewhere type of person, and stories were once a way of finding that adventure whenever I wanted it. Adventure was the initial hook that lured me into stories. But sometime in the process of getting older, I stopped consuming stories purely for adventure. I consume a lot of stories now that aren’t adventures – they are simple stories about different types of people living different types of lives. I think the hook now is hope. Sometimes it’s the hope that the story will make me laugh, sometimes it’s the hope that it will make me cry. Sometimes it’s still the hope that Hogwarts exists and my letter is just 13 years late. It’s the hope that I learn something new. It’s the hope that I understand people a little bit better. It’s the hope that I will find something in a story that gives me a glimpse into experiences different than my own while also being able to recognize myself within it. And that in itself is a different kind of adventure.