Fables and Universal Truths

“Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us about one man and fable tells us about a million men.” – GK Chesterton

The father of a friend of mine never read fiction. Fiction “wasn’t true,” and therefore a “waste of time.” Too bad he never heard Chesterton’s quote. GK was onto something. Jung’s version was “the most personal is the most universal.” And this is the truth that drives good fiction.

Now, I’m not saying all fiction is created equal. There’s quite a lot of dreck that is a complete waste of time. But…I love the stories where heroes rise up in defense of the good, the true, the honorable; where love, sacrifice, and courage matter.

In our daily rounds of facts, seldom do we notice how one life well-lived makes a positive difference in the lives of others; in the life of the world. Biographies give us the example of a great person. But we can easily excuse ourselves from being a Washington, a Lincoln, a Gandhi…a Jesus. Or we can console ourselves, that at least we are not Stalin, Pol Pot, or Hitler. But the fluidity of fiction invites us to identify with the hero. Fiction gives us a chance to see the truths within us. Good fiction celebrates the power of the human spirit. Looking into the mirror of fiction, we see not only the best (and sometimes the worst) of ourselves–but of humankind.

Or, as another good friend has said: “You may not like it, but you’re an awful lot like me.”

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