“What if we longed, not for more things, but for bigger things? Wouldn’t that desire lead us, almost automatically, so long as we actually, and actively, seek these bigger things, to a bigger story?”
Two thoughts came together in my head this morning. I talk a lot lately about living and telling a great story. But where do you begin to live a great story? I know how to answer that question for myself, but until this morning had no idea what to suggest as a starting point for others. That’s where the collision of these two thoughts came from.
The first thought comes from reading a couple books about story and storytelling – John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, and Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal. Both authors identify the heart of story as (I’m paraphrasing): the protagonist wants something, and he overcomes obstacles as he seeks it. Hold that idea in your mind for a moment while we look at this morning’s second thought.
“What if desiring more is the key to living a great story?”
Writer G.K. Chesterton once said (again, I’m paraphrasing) there are two ways to get what we want: to acquire more and more or desire less and less. I have always resonated with that, particularly where the desiring less and less applies to material things, and the pursuit of a simple life. But this morning it flipped on its head for me. What if (here’s where we loop back to the first thought) desiring more is the key to living a great story?
I don’t mean material things, per se. I mean what if we desired more from our art, our legacy, our relationships, our bucket lists, and our impact? If we longed – not for more things, but for bigger things – wouldn’t that desire lead us, almost automatically (so long as we actually, and actively, seek these bigger things) to a bigger story? I think it would.
And that’s why so few people do it. Because as the story grows, so do the obstacles. We have so much more to lose. The voice of fear gets so much louder. The resistance, on all levels increases. There’s nothing I can tell you to make that not so. It’s what makes the story something worth living, and something worth telling.
“As neither of those voices have ever led me to a freer, fuller, kinder, more creative or generous life, I choose to ignore them.”
Most of us are flanked by two messages that twist this idea. The first voice is a cultural one: to desire more and more means more stuff. I can’t help you with that, but I can tell you that the more stuff you acquire the bigger the pile of reasons (things you have to lose should the story go sideways) not to live that larger story after-all. Who needs a great story when you can watch one on a new television the size of a car? I don’t think the most rabid materialist wants too much; I think he wants too little. I think he settles for a counterfeit, preferring the ease of Stuff over the beauty of Story. Story can’t be bought with a credit card, and Stuff never lasts.
“If you want a bigger story, it begins with giving yourself the freedom to explore, and lay hold of, the biggest desires of your life.”
The second voice comes from the other angle; it’s loudest message is that to desire more of your life is selfish. Just who do you think you are? And you’ll have to answer that for yourself, too. As neither of those voices have ever led me to a freer, fuller, kinder, more creative or generous life, I choose to ignore them.
If you want a bigger story, it begins with giving yourself the freedom to explore, and lay hold of, the biggest desires of your life.
This short article originally appeared on my Beautiful Anarchy blog. I’m re-publishing it because I take the advice of Jay Maisel seriously when he says if you want to be a more interesting photographer you need to be a more interesting person. Photography is a means by which to say something, but if you don’t have anything interesting to say, it’s just pressing buttons and buying gear and over and over again my audience tells me they long for more than that. If that is so, if you long for more, then dial it up a notch, take that desire beyond photography and into your life and see here it leads.
The image of me at the top of this post, shot by Jason Bradley, was made off Hornby Island, British Columbia, during my ongoing attempts to become a competent diver and explore more of what this beautiful world has to offer.
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Oh I can’t tell you how that resonates and brings a smile to my face! Just what I’ve been musing on, just what I needed to read. Great stuff.
thank you for sharing…..
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Thanks for sharing! I love this article!
Awesome thoughts David!
I love what you write, David, and I agree that too many people want too little and believe too little in themselves to achieve what they want. At first I took issue with “bigger,” because for me, bigger is not necessarily better. I’m for quality over quantity. But I see where you’re going with this. The other quibble I have (an internal quibble, really) is from my experience and training that tells me desire is the root of all suffering. I’ll have to think about this more to see what resolution I might discover. Thanks again for your insightful posts. They make me think.
Jane – I think, to differ slightly with my Buddhist friends, it is not desire that causes suffering, but our tendency to hold too tightly to that desire, to not flow with what brings, to not be grateful for what we have. After all, is it not the desire for peace and unity that drives Zen or Buddhist thought? Surely desire is not all about suffering.
David, I so appreciate your distinction. Of course, desire isn’t all about suffering. Our desires are what push us toward growth, toward a life of greater satisfaction, toward pursuits that are worthwhile. Desires shape who we are. The Buddhist notion of “skillful desire” is relevant here. The contrary, holding on too tightly to a desire and not letting go when it’s unproductive, distasteful, unethical, or hurtful to yourself or others is what leads to disappointment and suffering. I like that you mentioned “flow,” that willingness to see without preconceptions. Thank you.
Great article! Resonates with me, too. Glad to see you are enjoying your journey into “inner space”!
Simply, brilliantly, said. Thanks for sharing!
A pal of mine has what he calls the ‘Materiality Hassle Curve’ – it is a life ‘law’ that suggests the more stuff you have, the more hassle it causes. He is, paradoxically, an addicted buyer of boys’ toys.
Wonderful image, truly.
Great article, Thanks!