I’m working on a new book about Pastormac’s Seven Inescapable Themes. They aren’t truly my themes, just one’s I’ve identified. Nor am I the only one to identify the prevalence of certain concepts, themes or ideas across all stories. Anyway, this new book will be out soon, and guess what…It’s free! Well, there is one small thing I may ask you to do, but I promise it will not cost you any money and no more than a minute of your time. Anyway, keep an eye out I’ll let you know when it’s ready.
In the meantime, I have two teasers for you. First, from the intro to the Seven Themes book.
The Power of Story
Once upon a time, there was a normal person who became a hero.
In the beginning there was nothing which became something.
Conflict, resolution; the hero’s journey, the happy ending, the tragic fall, the enriching love, the destroying bitterness.
Story matters to us; the dramatic unfolding and progression from one thing to another thing.
From the very first once all the way to the present, story has been with us.
How it’s communicated may change: from oral to written, from ink on a physical page, to digital text on a screen, and back to oral in the form of audio books. We may have a preference, but it’s the story that matters most to us, not the form.
The medium of story varies in other ways too. Music, movies, pictures, art of all kinds are used to tell stories.
Often it’s not fictional but reflected in the way we pass on and receive other information. Histories, news reports, comedy bits, even daily conversation are often framed as stories.
Science helps us understand the structure of the universe but we look to stories to help us understand the purpose, to explore the meaning of the universe. Where science sometimes breaks things down to elements so small they lose meaning, story has the power to reintegrate seemingly meaningless pieces of our lives in a way which resonates beneath the intellect, though not in spite of it.
The Greeks called this Logos: a rational principle which guides the universe. Only in story it’s not just rational but also evident to our soul and our heart. It’s truth which speaks deeper than proposition, and more beautifully than the most elegant of formulas.
A group of poets and artists in the 19th century called this resonant universal beauty and truth, Nature.
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
The Tables Turned
From Plato’s love/hate relationship with story to Joseph Campbell’s description of the hero’s journey, the power of story has revealed itself across all cultures and times and certain themes and ideas have proven inescapable to the teller. Even in our current climate of deconstruction, any story which truly denies all these themes at once does so only by clear intention to ignore these very themes, thus providing greater support for the inherent expectation for and love of these concepts in us. Furthermore I would argue there is a timeless correlation between stories which skillfully handle more than one of these themes and the power of the story: power to shape culture, and move hearts and minds.
We would really like to believe this is real; this longing for meaning, for plot and design and divine appointment, for redemption, for justice. I have come to believe that the good news is that our desire for meaning arises from the truth that there is meaning. There is a story behind the Universe which makes it all makes sense.
I would suggest that every story we write, draw, compose or perform is a seeking after that one true story of the universe. It may even be that it’s appeal is correlated with the number of these themes skillfully handled.
I have identified seven of these themes; themes which I call inescapable, meaning that every story, good or bad, seems to include at least one of these themes. Sometimes they are skillfully handled, sometimes not; sometimes they are intentional, often not; sometimes they are flipped on their head or corrupted severely from the forms discussed here, sometimes they are as clear as pure water.
While I find these themes profound, friends of mine will tell you that they can also be a lot of fun. Identifying these themes, far from being the scholarly work it may at first sound, actually becomes an enjoyable way to process a good (or bad) movie, play, book or other story and had become a sort of game among my family and friends. So now, I invite you to join us as we explore, Pastormac’s seven inescapable themes. Unlike Wordsworth’s concern above, this will not dissect story into nothing but enhance both your enjoyment and understanding.
I use numerous examples both contemporary and timeless throughout this book; but I’ve also chosen five stories in particular from varying genre’s all of which contain all seven themes to help provide continuity and broad interest.
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes as a collection
Jane Austen books as a collection
EB White’s Charlotte’s Web
George Lucas’ Star Wars
My Second Teaser is actually not for my book but for a DVD set which I watched while on my Pastor’s retreat. It’s in many ways similar in that it depicts the Gospel (really the entire Biblical story) as an epic story as seen from a very large distance with little detail but much attention to large important themes. It’s put together by John Eldredge and here’s the trailer he’s released for it. I may be hosting a screening of this at some point in the not too distant future, so keep your eyes pealed for that as well, or just buy the DVD yourself 🙂