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Origin of Stories, Twilight Edition

By Raymond Arnold and Daniel Speyer

And what did time write in the world, where we could read it?

Time wrote of billions of years, in which stars were born, and burned, and died. And nobody mourned their passing nor thought them beautiful.

And of millions of years, in which biological creatures were born and lived and died, Incapable of mourning each other’s passing, nor thinking the world around them beautiful.

But in the wake of their often violent deaths came other creatures, Slowly evolving over the eons, Not in any particular direction that anyone intended. Until, at last, two boundaries were passed:

The border between uncaring matter, And matter arranged into patterns with desires and drive.

The border between unthinking matter, And matter that could contemplate the patterns around it.

And somewhere, at some point, in those fertile imaginations, The first ideas were thought. The first stories were told.

And for thousands of years, Stories were born, and lived, and often but did not always die. They evolved, not precisely in any particular direction, but neither entirely directionless.

Some stories were useful. They taught us how to do things, and were retold for that reason.

And some were beautiful. And were retold for that reason. Even by those who did not quite believe them.

And some were retold because an individual chose to retell them.

We shaped our stories, and they shaped us in turn. In time, they came to drive our civilization. Our stories have helped us to thrive, to persevere against overwhelming odds. Our stories helped us to cooperate, When by all rights we should have destroyed one another.

And sometimes, our stories led us to genocide, Or to erect institutions beyond our control, Indifferent to our suffering.

We live in a world where suffering and death are realities. And I will not try to tell you that that is somehow okay, because it’s not. And I will not try to tell you that we will necessarily ever overcome those things, Because I don’t know for certain whether we can, And tonight is not about blind hope.

I can tell you will we will try.

And I can tell you this: That Galileo and Rosa Parks. Arthur Pendragon and Samwise Gamgee. Everyone you’ve ever loved -- not anyone who ever was, nor every story ever told -- but everyone you’ve ever heard of…

There is a sense in which a small part of those people have survived, Their patterns preserved in the stories we tell.

And that might seem meaningful to you, or it might not. But what definitely seems meaningful to me is this:

We are part of a story that is greater than ourselves. A story that will probably outlive us. It could possibly outlive our children. It could potentially outlive humanity.

If we shape it wisely. If we allow it to shape us wisely.