How Playing with Story Can Change Us

Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. Read other people’s myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts—but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message. Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being alive.
— Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
We need to give ourselves permission to be swallowed up in something.
— Nikki Gastineau

What or who have you been a fan of over your lifetime? Even if you have to go waaaaay back, there's someone or something you've let yourself get lost in. When I think over my 50 years, I see a girl who knew every word of the movie "Grease" even though she wasn't allowed to see it. I remember being swept up in the crowd at the Oakland Coliseum in 1987 to Bono's and U2's magic on the Joshua Tree tour and knowing I was having a once in lifetime experience. And as a mother, I spent much money on Legos and American Girl dolls without hesitation for my children who were also lost in something. I might...might...have stolen my first Playgirl magazine from the drug store *cough* across the street from my church *cough* because my current celebrity crush was in it. Oh, I should clarify...I was probably fourteen when I...might...have done that.

I've thought about this a lot because I wonder, what is it about celebrity crushes? Why do we go bonkers? I know I have plenty of times. Some I won't admit to. But one time, albeit in my conservative Christian circles of yore, I complimented Tom Cruise's looks at a dinner party. "'re a happily married woman now, aren't you?" my male friend chided. I knew his meaning. From his perspective, good Christian girls, especially those who were married, weren't supposed to get excited or admit they thought a celebrity was good looking. Well, even my strict religion wasn't able to keep my passion for stories and their characters, including the romantic sensibilities, from bubbling up.

So I have a theory. And I would love to hear yours.

I'm of the perspective that human nature doesn't really change over the generations and we can learn from ancestral stories, even as far back as the Greeks and the Romans. They had their gods and goddesses and each one represented one of their realities, yes? Well, we need...and yes, I choose the word "need" specifically...gods and goddesses, too. We need myths, which is what good stories are. We need understandings and perspectives in life that elevate what we believe and experience or illuminate what is mysterious to us. It's how we connect with life beyond our own understanding...see the Joseph Campbell quote above. 

We need ways to play and the stories that transport us to do that.

Yes, there is a line between fandom and obsession. Yes, our whole lives probably don't need to revolve around our latest fan favorite. But have you let yourself fall into imagination as an adult? Have you allowed yourself to be swallowed up in something?

Will you let your freak flag fly?

This has powerfully happened to me in the last few years. If you follow me online at all, you probably know this. I may be almost 50, but like many (dare I admit white middle-age women) have become swallowed up in the Outlander series fan tribe. I am in the Facebook groups. I follow everyone from my beloved lead characters to the set designer on Twitter. AND I am flying to Manhattan in August to attend the first official convention of the show so I can meet my beloved characters/actors and play with other fans all the weekend long. I'm so excited!

Why. Why? What is it about these stories? Simply, they're mythical. The love of the protagonists is SO rich and beautiful. The hero is a Christ figure to me and the heroine such a strong the author...that she inspires me. The history and culture of 18th century Scotland makes my Great Britain genetics wake up and feel at home in mythical ways. It's steeped in reality but also otherworldly which makes me feel like the way we feel pretending as children. I love so much about this form of play in my stage of life. 

I want you to have this, too. Not necessarily for Outlander, though I continue to highly recommend the series. I want you to have your place to play, your place to be swallowed up in something. I want you to live a life that is open to myth so life does not become gray, but full of color for. Good stories can give us this. 

What is yours? Where do you let the lines between myth and reality blur? What is your good story? I would love to know.