Stories. I love them. I mean I really love them. I’ve talked about my fascination with stories on this blog countless times. A cursory glance through my website and social media will make it clear that I’m a sucker for a good story. And, as I often do, I point you to my wife. Just ask her how I feel about stories, and I have no doubt she could go on at length about how everything always comes back to stories with me and how I just won’t shut up about them! She’s way too kind to express it that way, but the sentiment would surely be there.
I’ve alluded to and referenced my deep fondness for and awe of stories and storytelling so often that I figured it was about time to dedicate a blog to explaining why I find stories so captivating and, ultimately, why they really are the bedrock of why I do what I do as a voiceover artist.
Stories Are Everywhen
To begin, let’s just marvel for a moment at the history of stories and storytelling. When it comes right down to it, stories have been around pretty much for forever. In fact, though there’s no way to prove it, it’s often suggested that storytelling developed right on the heels of language itself. Every human culture throughout history has told stories in some form. In other words, there’s never been a “when” in history in which stories weren’t present. From ancient cave drawings to tales passed orally through generations to the earliest scrolls and tomes containing written manuscripts to the complex and nuanced storytelling we have today in written, oral, and visual media alike, the history of stories on this planet is one of the richest in existence. In short, storytelling is the universal human experience. It’s something every human being who has ever lived has in common with one another. If that’s not mind-boggling and more than a little cool, I don’t know what is!
Humans Crave Stories
Some folks may not enjoy reading. Others aren’t really television or film people. Still others don’t particularly find stimulation in listening to podcasts, music, sermons, etc. Regardless of whether someone regularly engages in today’s most common forms of storytelling or not, we are wrapped up in myriad stories on a daily basis. They’re all around us. They’re a part of the very fabric of everyday existence. We wouldn’t know what to do without them. Why? Because at their core, stories are quests for meaning. Our ideologies, our perceptions, our beliefs—what we buy into and what we reject—are all tied up in the stories we experience and tell ourselves.
I recently listened to an episode of The Liturgists podcast entitled In the Beginning, in which host Michael Gungor shares an example that I think aptly explains what I’m talking about here. He invites you to imagine yourself as a tourist in Paris. You take in the beauty of one of the world’s greatest cities and, in order to learn more about its rich history, you sign up for a tour. Your group assembles at the base of the Eiffel Tower and you immediately begin admiring the famous structure. You’re excited to learn more about it. When was it built? Who constructed it? Why was it made in the first place? As you ponder these questions, the tour guide arrives, introduces himself, and gestures to the tower. “This,” he says, “is a tower.” He smiles a self-satisfied smile before continuing. “And that will be fifty Euros, please.”
How would you feel about such a tour guide? Upset? Angry? Swindled? Why would you feel that way? In a manner of speaking, the tour guide did give you a tour. He pointed something out and told you what it is. What more do you want? Well, we all know that that’s not really what a tour is. We take tours because we want to hear stories. We don’t just want to see an old pile of rocks in Rome; we want to know why that pile of rocks is significant. What was it a part of? What function did it serve? How did it affect the lives of real people? What is its story?
A tour group, in essence, is a storytelling group. What’s more, that’s really what any group of people is. Telling stories is what makes a group a group. The stories we tell bind us together and help us make sense of the world as we experience it. Without that, we’re lost. And people don’t generally like being lost.
You Are the Story
Truthfully, though, I believe the significance of stories for human beings goes even deeper. In a subsequent episode of The Liturgists podcast entitled Death and Resurrection, Gungor provides another example that I find to be incredibly profound. I’ll summarize it here, but I highly recommend taking a listen for yourself if you get the chance.
Who are you? What makes you you? Think about your body. Think about how at one time it was nothing more than a microscopic fertilized egg. Was that nondescript sack of cells you? If not, when did it become you? At a specific point as you developed in your mother’s womb? When you were born? Was that little baby’s body really you? Was it your eight-year-old body? Your 40-year-old body?
Now think about a funeral with an open casket. Seeing a dead body often elicits a strange feeling of the body being present while the person is gone. Friends may say, “That’s Ruth’s body, but Ruth isn’t here anymore.” Who or what was/is Ruth? Is that physical body that walked around, introducing itself as Ruth in life not actually Ruth? The same body is present, but it’s no longer Ruth. Why? Because the body isn’t functioning? Is Ruth simply the body’s processes: digestion, circulation, breathing, etc.? That can’t be because if any of those processes change, we still consider her Ruth. As long as the body lives we think of it as Ruth, but once it dies we perceive that Ruth is gone. But if Ruth is not the body nor its living functions, then who or what is Ruth? Is Ruth an immaterial spirit or soul? How much Ruth-ness can be associated with that spirit? Is that spirit energy? Can it move outside the body? How? Can it think without a brain? Does it maintain Ruth’s memories? Does it still have Ruth’s personality? Does Ruth still identify as a human woman? If not, how can a disembodied, immaterial soul still be reasonably considered Ruth as we knew her? Is that spirit really ontologically separate from the rest of reality? Does it have a completely different source and context from the rest of the seen or unseen reality?
At the end of the day, Ruth is not the body in the casket. Nor is she the functions of that body. Nor is she the spirit that may have temporarily inhabited that body. Ruth is a story.
I share this thought experiment not to stir up conversations about religion or spirituality—my goal here is not to condone or vilify the beliefs of anyone associated with The Liturgists podcast. Rather, this example simply got me thinking about what it means for each individual not only to have their own story, but to actually be their story. The more I dwell on it, the more powerful I think this notion is. Death brings a person’s story to its end (at least this iteration of it), but even if the person is “gone,” the story lives on. We remember the story. We cherish the story.
Storytelling is Honor and Privilege
The above are some of the reasons you so often hear me say or see me write, “Stories are powerful.” They can touch us at the core of who we are because they’re part of who and what we are. Storytelling is ancient and cosmic and connective.
This is why being a voiceover artist brings me both incredible excitement and incomprehensible humility. Stories have always and will continue to shape the human experience. When we recognize the sacredness and power of storytelling, it is an incredible honor to be invited in to help tell someone else’s story. Being chosen to give a voice to the beauty, advancement, creativity, and dreams that my fellow human beings courageously share with the world will always be a privilege.
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories!
Voiceover Artist | Storyteller
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