Our stories shape the way we feel about our role in the world, the basic ideas we come to accept as the way the world functions. Hollywood makes dreams. Bollywood, maybe even more so. Fairy tales aren’t too different. Myths explained what the world was like and why it was like that, and not different.
Myths are still competing with each other and with reality, as when some try to argue that environmentalism had to be wrong because it was nothing more than a story of profligate consumption having to lead to a reckoning eventually, but also when different visions of the future are made to compete for followers.
There’s a problem, though.
According to so many of those stories, whenever there is a catastrophe, a challenge to survival, a hero arises. One person in all the world.
Most of the time, it’s not even someone who just decides to be up for the challenge – though it happens, and there are not so few stories of ordinary people rising to the challenge – but rather somebody who was chosen.
It’s your destiny.
You are meant for greatness.
You have special powers.
You are *the* one.
Even as we may be talking about the negative effects it has when we compare ourselves – our lifestyles, our bodies – to the impossibly happy and beautiful images we encounter on TV, we find our own lives lacking in comparison to those heroes, anyways. Maybe, because our lives could never be as great, we just let things slide.
So, we praise all those who give us hope they’ll lead, envy the ones who rise to the challenges that destiny chose for them – and we let ourselves be cast in a supporting role in our own lives. If that.
The problem is a Mobius strip of perspective, two sides that are really just one: It’s the framing that makes the story seem great or not, and it’s the active living that shapes both story and frame.
Take Steve Jobs, for example. In some ways, it’s been decided to say that he was great. He did what it seems he wanted to do, had success with it, created great products.
In other respects, such as in terms of social skills and responsibility, however, he came from broken conditions, and never managed to become great at that.
It’s every mythic hero’s, and indeed every living person’s, challenge: The meaning of your life is what you decide for it to be. Naturally, you don’t decide all by yourself, divorced of the culture and society you are in. Nor should you decide all for yourself, without care for the world around you, if you want a better chance at flourishing and greatness for more than just you.
Still, it is you who’s leading your life.
Even if human consciousness were just a fluke of evolution, a trait that developed farther than it would have had to just to provide a biological advantage, we are all now left with pretty peculiar powers: to learn, to think, and to decide for ourselves whether to go with what our societies tell us or rail against it, seek to acquiesce to cultural patterns or to shift them, seek to be happy as we are or to make ourselves better, look for admiration and fame or for the success of having a family and providing for it (or both).
We are even made, and have grown up, to want certain things more than others, and yet still have power to do something about most of it. What other animal can decide to just party, or pray, or run for miles, or put someone on the moon?
Whatever it is you want, whatever it is that happens and is done, the story of a life is more easily told in a good light as long as the person living it takes on an active role, risks something and lives with it.
Many of the personal development- / creative life-entrepreneur- / lifestyle-design- / whatever- people take themselves and their individual influence as all too important, perhaps, but they have a point when they describe themselves as CEOs of their own lives… What are you, the manager of your life or just the assistant secretary, the gardener or the grass?