Here’s a story:
“Life is a struggle. That is not to say that it is only a struggle; there is much happiness and joy to be found. But life is far from easy. There is pain, and hardship, and heartache. There is grief and loss. There is evil and suffering. Each one of us stands on a road that contains many obstacles and pitfalls.
“But there is a GROUP. This GROUP wants you to join it. This GROUP makes a promise, and a powerful one: if you join the GROUP, life will make sense. It will come into focus. You will have strength, and energy, and power to help you fight the battles that lie ahead. You will be surrounded and uplifted by the other members of the GROUP. The GROUP only asks you for one thing: your loyalty. You must live like the other members of the GROUP. You must think as they do, and act as they do, and speak as they do. But if you do this, you will be richly rewarded. Your problems will, eventually, be solved. Your loneliness healed. Your sorrows abated. Your life will be transformed by an infusion of meaning, both potent and powerful. You will be victorious.”
What, you may be wondering, is the GROUP? There are many groups, any one of which could be inserted in this story. It is, in fact, the same story, but told in a wide range of different ways. Here are some of them:
Granted, each of these groups has a different variation of the story to tell, though some of the variations have more in common than the groups would care to admit. But one thing is, I believe, readily apparent to anyone who openly and honestly examines human history. Human beings create and embrace narratives that give meaning and purpose to their lives. Since human beings are social animals who cannot survive in isolation, their stories are naturally the narratives of groups. Salman Rushdie wrote “Man is the storytelling animal, and in stories are his identity, his meaning, and his lifeblood.”