You are the greatest story ever told

I have great news.

You are the star of the most poignant film ever conceived. An unprecedented epic saga, it is filmed in one continuous shot, from the first-person perspective. The sets are rich with detail, the lighting always underlines the mood perfectly, the cinematography always magnificent yet unpretentious.

The supporting cast is top notch, too. There are no histrionics, no miscast actors, no flubbed lines. They all deliver the dialogue impeccably, each line timed and inflected perfectly for its respective scene. The protagonists’ friends and lovers will make you laugh out loud, swoon with desire, and feel a sense of belonging and respect. The villains make you feel afraid, furious, depressed, and alienated.

Often the people in the story will look right at the camera, and reveal the stunning depth and density of their character to you.  Why are they even in this story, and why in this particular chapter? What role are they here to play: the advisor, the fool, the expert, the disciple, the love interest, the diplomat, the instigator, the enemy, the martyr?

Why were they cast at all? Will they give our protagonist some much-needed perspective, or will they only create dilemmas to be overcome? If they do create trouble for the hero, what will she need to learn about herself or about humanity in order to get past it?  Some of the characters are only on screen just to flesh out the backdrop of civilization that makes all human stories so compelling and absurd. Whatever the reason, they are there and they have a purpose.

Even the extras are incredible. Watch them closely; they’re all overflowing with character. The nervous clerk at the deli; the sighing, sullen bus driver; the gentle-eyed jazz musician; the fat, furious man who explodes at the waitress; the sheepish, bespectacled intern who is incapable of eye contact; the clean-cut deacon who always smells like coffee; the flamboyant ex-broadcaster who’s running for mayor, the camo-wearing neighbor with the knife collection and clammy hands — all of them speak volumes about the setting our hero lives in. They tell you what it means to live here: the culture, the prevailing dogma, the taste and feel of this town. They reveal what is easy and difficult about being a person; they demonstrate exactly what our hero wants — and doesn’t want — to be.

The masterful plot, oh how it twists! You thought you could foresee the current scene from the last one, but you were wrong. Nothing happens quite like you expect it to.  There are no formulaic plot devices here, this story is too good for that.  Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, a new and exciting character enters the picture who will change it forever.

Over the course of the story, sweeping arcs emerge, sometimes over years. A twelve-year tenure as a schoolteacher. A life-changing trip to the far east. A failed marriage. A successful business venture. A stint in prison. A wild and crazy period. A long depression or sickness. A crippling addiction. Children. Golden years. Fame. Poverty. Wars and elections. Births and deaths.

And the moral behind this story, perhaps you are beginning to get a hint of it. Universal truths are emerging. Perhaps some of them resemble the lessons you’ve seen in other stories, reminiscent of worn clichés and ancient wisdom, while others are truly original, igniting an epiphany in you that no person prior has ever reached.

When the protagonist finds herself in trouble, how will she react, and what habits will form from it? Will this story become a gutting tragedy, an absurdist comedy, a heartwarming fairy tale?

Perhaps she can learn from her mistakes, and blossom into a wiser and deeper character, or maybe — true to Shakespearean tradition — an unexamined fatal flaw will guarantee her eventual downfall. What she does and where she ends up depends on the strength of her character, and the chance encounters she has with the story’s ceaseless parade of wild and vivid characters. Enjoy them as they arrive — and depart.

Above all, two things are certain.

One, it was meant to be this way. If she misses the bus, it’s because it allows for something to happen that couldn’t have otherwise. If someone lets her down, it’s so she can grow in order to handle an upcoming scene. This tale is too deep and powerful for any of it to be truly senseless.

And two, no matter where the story has come to rest currently, it isn’t over. Everything that has happened has combined to bring us precisely here, and ‘here’ will give way to another here in no time.

Whether the current scene is peaceful or frantic, dire or triumphant, it’s building to something. Even if you don’t like this particular part, there is a reason for it, and it will give birth to a new set, new characters, and a new plotline before you know it.

So let it unfold as it will. Don’t overlook the details, and know that there is something grand behind them.

Always most interesting is how our lead character responds. How much chutzpah will she bring to the table here? Is this a scene where she turns over a new leaf, or disappoints herself again?

Do not underestimate how profound your story is. Countless lives, even entire bloodlines and empires, will hinge on what our hero chooses to do, right now and always.

You are the greatest story ever told. Don’t ever convince yourself that your life is anything less than that.

What scene is happening now? What has had to happen to put our hero right here in this scene, with all its intricate details and subtleties? Where could the writers be going with this one? What as-yet-unknown essential character is poised to enter the frame?  What difficult and pivotal decision will send our hero on a new path nobody could have guessed, and does she have the courage to make it?

Watch and find out.


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