Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Is Your Story Foolish?

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I am a scientist by training. Practical. Sensible. Methodical.

I was once telling some friends about the first time I asked my wife out. I told the story as it occured to me. This happened. Some of that happened. And then I asked.

I didn’t realize what was missing from the story until one of them responded by asking, “So it was a logical decision to ask her out?”

I wanted to say no, especially since my wife was there for the discussion. I wanted to explain that I was motivated by love. That I actually threw my logic to the side for a moment and did something temporarily irrational but good.

But the way I told the story, their conclusion was the only reasonable one.

See, there I go again.

We have been married fourteen years and have six kids. Our lives together have been forced to become even more practical than the day I asked her out. It takes precise planning and execution to get six kids out of bed, to school, fed, homework done, dirty little bodies cleaned and in bed by 8:30.

Logic keeps the world moving. Practicality gets work done. It keeps food on the table and our cars filled with gas.

But a life lived in love must be more than logic. It should also include some foolishness. Some balderdash. Games of fiddlesticks.

To me, by definition  love means we do things that don’t make sense.

Every good story needs some foolishness.

I was reminded of this when I read this poem by Mary Oliver.

Foolishness? No, it’s not.

Sometimes I spend all day trying to count
the leaves on a single tree. To do this I
have to climb branch by branch and
write down the numbers in a little book.
So I suppose, from their point of view,
it’s reasonable that my friends say: what
foolishness! She’s got her head in the clouds
But it’s not. Of course I have to give up,
but by then I’m half crazy with the wonder
of it – the abundance of the leaves, the
quietness of the branches, the hopelessness
of my effort. And I am in that delicious
and important place, roaring with laughter,
full of earth-praise.

photo by Sarah Sosiak (creative commons)

Foolishness? Maybe. But perhaps foolishness is the only way to stop and awe at the wonder of life.

Perhaps it is the only way to begin to appreciate everything we have been given. To appreciate each other. To laugh and sing and dance. To soak in the beauty that surrounds us. To smile at the world.

Has this kind of foolishness been part of your story?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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9 Replies

  1. I teach public speaking, and although logic is a strong persuader, in the end, it’s more often the emotional stories that change people’s minds, and the world.

  2. pam williams

    Emotional Stories is what females tend to remember about a lecture or a sermon. This is why even the sports arena have these little tales about the players. He was raised by an inspiring grandma, etc. for the female viewers.

    There is a bit of child in all of us and we need to “let our hair down” and display it at times. My daughter and I take one day from public school and “play hookie” each year. Right before Christmas, she asked if we could play hookie, I explained our responsibility, she frowned on her way to catch the school bus. Pam from

  3. Katharine Trauger

    It is far easier to count the leaves as they fall off in autumn, which I have done, and it is just as amazing to consider their number and that they all sprang from one seed. Each bearing seed after its kind — such a short phrase, producing such long results!

    This post reminds me of a great preacher, whom someone asked, “Is is permissible to play marbles with my son?” and the preacher replied, “Only if you do not cheat.” Such a dry little morsel of humor that says so much!
    No, no foolishness in my life, to answer the question. Rest, laughter, even levity if not taken to excess, is Biblical, and therfore wisdom.

  4. Ugh, I’m about as practical and logical as they come. I got a nice kitchen knife set for Christmas. Upon ripping off the paper, my first thought wasn’t, “Wow! These are going to be awesome!” My first thought was, “How am I going to get these on the plane?”

  5. Well, you do have to get them on the plane to get them home so you can be less practical and cut stuff up with them.

  6. I’m glad you made this point. The speaker uses logic to give the talk substance. But how the speaker incorporates foolishness is key.

  7. Natasha Metzler

    I’ve always viewed my story practically but over the past few years I’ve been learning to embrace the emotions. Turns out, as a writer, people connect with emotions. Very few people have walked the exact same road as me but everyone has experienced the same emotions.

  8. I think this is part of why we remember stories better than we do instructions. Writers have this unique role of trying to explain the human experience, and its emotions, in a way that makes sense.

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