Stories can change our lives – and change history. People tell us stories about countries they’ve been to, full of riches and promise. They tell us about how they have changed their lives in some way and how much happier they are. Their stories capture our imagination and spur us to take action in our own lives. What are the stories that could change your life?
The men are gathered round the table. The only light is an oil lamp against the Nordic dark. Ragnar has heard of a land to the West called England where there are riches to be had. A wanderer he met told him about this land of plenty. But these Vikings have never ventured West, only East, and they are afraid, uncertain. If they risk everything and travel West, there may be nothing but endless sea. After all, it is only stories that Ragnar has heard – nothing proven, nothing real.
“Everything begins and ends with stories,” Ragnar says.
This takes place in the second episode of the historical TV series Vikings. And it is these stories that set things in motion – first, by capturing Ragnar’s lone imagination and then stirring the spirit of adventure and gain in the other men in his village.
Stories can change history
Ragnar’s words stirred me, too. They made me think of all the migrants who have left their homelands over the generations, drawn to the hope of a new life by stories of riches and plenty brought back or sent back in letters by others who have gone before. The Vikings changed the face of England. Other migrants were also all individuals making decisions for their own personal reasons – and yet, in their collective migration, they changed history: think of the Irish and many other peoples who came to make up the nation of America or the Chinese populating the South East Asia diaspora. Today, we are inspired by stories of internet millionaires, kitchen table businesses, freelance freedom – and we think: if they can do it, why not me too?
It’s not statistics or analysis or facts and figures that get our hearts racing and light up our eyes. We may do our research or work out the sums at a later stage but stories create the first spark. Someone tells you about someone they know who has…. and your imagination is off and you want to know more, you want to know how you can have some of that in your life.
What stories light up the fire in your soul?
Stories can inspire us to make changes
For me, it’s stories about people who have done something unusual. A friend’s husband gave up his high-powered computer based job to retrain as a boat builder. She has taken a sabbatical from her London job to join him for the summer. They are living in a caravan by the sea and she is working on her novel while he is looking fitter and stonger and ruddier by the day. I have not seen them happier than they are now. And their story makes my spirit burn brighter..
It’s not that I personally want to become a boat bulider, or live in a caravan. But rather the elements of their story that capture my imagination tell me about how my own hopes and dreams.
The story of my friends’ escape from office life reminds me of my own need for creativity, and also for nature and physicality – and how important it is to me to make time for what I love to do. And so, their story invites me to clear some space in my diary to get more writing done. It reminds me that there are still long summer evenings to be enjoyed and so I pull on my trainers to go for runs after work. My friends’ story says to me there is pleasure in simplicity and so I am minded to pare down the activities and complexities that have crept up on my life.
What stories inspire you to make changes in your life?
What about you? What are the stories that call you to the adventure that is your life? Stories of challenge and daring? Of love? Escape? Courage?
The Vikings set sail in the early light of dawn, trusting in nothing but stories. They headed west into an unknown adventure to a mythic land called England. And the rest becomes history.
How will you answer the call of the stories that fire your imagination?
Photo: viking ship to illustrate the inspiring call of stories that can change history and our personal lives – thanks to robert macdonald on flickr.com (CCL)