Are Stories Timeless?
As an author, I look back on life a lot to see where there’s inspiration or what makes me write the subject matter I do. I noticed something odd in my belief about words. I used to think if something appeared in a book, it would last forever. It was a document that could be found at some point in the future by archaeologists and studied.
The protests of burning books (even damaging books) felt like sacrilege. “It’s a book! It’s meant to exist forever!” My silly brain grew up through the 70s and 80s. The notion of digital books wasn’t something I could imagine since I didn’t come from a particularly tech savvy family. We were the type to be the last people to get a VCR or cable TV. To me, the future of a book meant it had to be cared for and preserved.
The world has changed and I’ve evolved along with it. I’m happy to have digital books that take up less space or don’t use trees. Naturally, I still enjoy the smell and visual of books on shelves so that will always be part of my life in some way. My shelves are overflowing and I still have boxes of books that were never unpacked. Digital though, has opened a new door and let me share stories with friends or download review copies from publishers looking for reviews to be a content creator.
I’ve been reading tarot cards seriously since my 20s, but used to play around with a standard card deck as a child to see if I could get any messages from them. I eventually took a tarot class for the fun of it and to see what I could learn. One of the most significant lessons was when my mentor/High Priest Eric Lee told us, “They’re just paper.”
He was talking about the secrecy and superstitions that some people still follow to this day about their decks: not letting other people touch them; keeping them wrapped in black silk; hiding them when not in use. When Eric said they’re just paper, it was enlightening. They really were just paper. They weren’t ruined if someone else found them. And part of my readings for other people, I intentionally ask them to shuffle the deck and hold it. It’s a just tool, he emphasized.
It stuck me that paper can be thrown away, burned, lost, or stolen. Although some items truly are irreplaceable and sentimental, that doesn’t mean that as a whole, paper objects are meant to be left forever for future explorers to find. We’re fortunate to have what was left in ancient libraries because they didn’t have iPads and Kindles.
Even much more durable writing on stone isn’t being preserved. Evil power-driven people who are afraid of history are toppling statues and bashing walls filled with ancient written scriptures.
It’s extremely difficult to make a story that lasts forever. A friend of mine is getting her PhD in oral storytelling and folklore. She does this to ensure that people learn the art of passing stories down verbally. It’s a different experience than reading. If you’ve ever played the game “Telephone” (sorry, I don’t know what they call it now), spoken words that pass from person-to-person are usually manipulated, misheard, or exaggerated by the end of the game. So, again, one version of a story wouldn’t be permanent this way either.
As stories go through their generational changes, I hope they are stories that get better each time. It’s questionable who was the first to say, history is written by the victors, but for the sake of your story, you should come out victorious. You should get to tell your point of view and how you view the world around you. At some point, there could be someone in the future telling your story. Will they make you sound taller, richer, poorer, thinner, smarter? Will they make your struggles sound genuine or too exaggerated? Which version of your story will last forever?