We all respond to stories. The desire to make sense of our experience is part of the human condition. I think stories are compelling because as we watch, read or listen to other creatures responding to stimuli and understanding it in a coherent way we see parallels to our own situation. Even in fantasy we sometimes see most clearly the similarities since the stark contrast allow the coherence to be more vivid. Stories are what bind experience together. Our own stories are just the way we retell our own experience to ourselves as we seek to understand the three-year-old’s relentless question that we ceaselessly ask ourselves, “Why”
On a cosmic level we are like unto a crazy quilt. Each one of us is composed of an odd collection of scraps held together with threads that bind the bits and pieces of our lives into a whole. All the while something beautiful and cohesive is constructed of every day and the everyday overworked with intricate stitching becomes something remarkable that to the unschooled observer appears random. Actually we see with enough information a complete story arc that has meaning only because of the skill of the Maker. Our stories, the reasons why, are the threads that hold the incongruous pieces of our lives together. We are irresistibly drawn to compelling stories because they resonate so deeply with us.
All our media is filled with stories. Our tv and movies, books and podcasts all help us make sense of why we are here. We choose our media because it helps us to either unravel or develop our own stories. The stories, what we typically call “explanations” for why our lives are constructed in a certain way, the way we deal with the why of our lives. Stories are always about the overcoming of some obstacle. We like some stories and not others because they help us to narrate our own lives.
Crisis remove the “stuffing” or “quilt batting” from our lives. All good stories have a dramatic period where the hero copes with the un-stuffing of their life and rises above their circumstances to reconfigure their story in such a way as to restore themselves. This heroic action of willingly undergoing trial and loss only to rise again in a new form, willingly transforming through loss into a better wholeness is the stuff of greatness. Our continual failure to rise above our own un-stuffing is the disintegration that overwhelms and undermines much of modern life. Stories become even more of a popular tonic, or escape in a society that provides very little deeper meaning for people to fall back upon in the remaking that is intrinsically part of every life.
The curious thing about “crazy quilts” is that unlike other blankets described as quilts, they do not contain “batting”. Batting is the lofty material between the layers of fabric in a quilt. “Crazy quilts” may be filled with a layer of fabric like wool, but they do not contain the “batting” and the actual quilting stitches that hold the layers of a typic quilt together are not present. They are created for the design, not the warmth. We are all in a way, “crazy.” We don’t exist to provide some other creature warmth or function. We are here because we add to the design of the whole. All of history is somehow incomplete without our tattered contribution.
Living in a pandemic has left many of us feeling like un-stuffed rag dolls. We feel frazzled, limp and lifeless. We are probably more like “crazy quilts.” We were never designed to be stuffed. All of the frantic rushing from event to event was what made us truly crazy. Life at home may be helping us to pare-down and focus on the actual story that our lives are telling. What we need most is not something to puff us up. Rather we need to let the hand of the Maker stitch us together and overwork us with the embroidery that will make sense of us.