A friend of mine gave me a book called “Epic” by John Eldredge. Now I don’t exactly fall into the religious crowd, per se, and this is a very religious book. I also enjoy it quite a bit. I may not agree with everything, but at it’s core it has some profound wisdom (something I might also say about The Bible). The author uses many examples from pop-culture, particularly movies. The basic premise of the book is, in the absolute most basic sense, is: The Bible is The Story about life, Life itself is a Story, and humanity’s stories are microcosms for the larger Story (emphasis on the capitalization). Now, I’m not going to write about religion here (the first part of that summary), but I would really like to share with you a bit from the prologue in the book, something that I feel really gets to the heart of why movies (and good stories in general) captivate us so strongly.
“We can discover the Story. Maybe not with perfect clarity, maybe not in the detail that you would like, but in greater clarity than most of us now have, and that would be worth the price of admission. I mean, to have some clarity would be gold right now, wouldn’t it?
“Start with the movies you love. Think about your favorite movies. Notice that every good story has the same ingredients. Love. Adventure. Danger. Heroism. Romance. Sacrifice. The Battle of Good and Evil. Unlikely heroes. Insurmountable odds. And a little fellowship that in hope beyond hope pulls you through in the end.
“Am I right? Think again about your favorite movies. Sense and Sensibility. Don Juan DeMarco. Titanic. The Sound of Music. Sleepless in Seattle. Gone With The Wind. Braveheart. Gladiator. Rocky. Top Gun. Apollo 13. The Matrix. The Lord of the Rings. The films you love are telling you something very important, something essential about your heart.
“Most of us haven’t stopped to ask ourselves, Now why that heart? Why those longings and desire? Might we have been given our longings for love and adventure, for romance and sacrifice as a kind of clue, a treasure map to the meaning of Life itself?
“Next I want you to notice that all the great stories pretty much follow the same story line. Things were once good, then something awful happened, and now a great battle must be fought or a journey taken. At just the right moment (which feels like the last possible moment), a hero comes and sets things right, and life is found again.
“It’s true of every fairy tale, every myth, every Western, every epic- just about every story you can think of, one way or another. Braveheart, Titanic, the Star Wars series, Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. They all pretty much follow the same story line.
Have you ever wondered why?
“Every story, great and small, shares the same essential structure because every story we tell borrows its power from a larger Story, a Story woven into the fabric of our being- what pioneer psychologist Cart Jung tried to explain as an archtype, or what his more recent popularizer Joseph Campbell called myth.
“All of these stories borrow from the Story. From Reality. We hear echoes of it throughout our lives. Some secret written on our hearts. A great battle to fight, and someone to fight for us. An adventure, something that requires everything we have, something to be shared with those we love and need.
“There is a Story that we just can’t seem to escape. There is a story written on the human heart.
As Ecclesiastes has it: He has planted eternity in the human heart.”
-John Eldredge, Epic
There’s no telling how many copyright laws I just broke. If the author of the book somehow stumbles here, please forgive me, and I will take it down immediately if it’s a problem.
But I think it’s a great little statement about stories. You can be religious or not, but I think you’d agree there’s something in us, something yearning to get out. And I think we reflect ourselves in the stories we tell. Our dreams, our values, our sense of humor, whatever it is that makes us human, are isolated and expounded in our cinema; in the stories we tell.