I Was Watching Vikings Last Night... (the stories we tell ourselves)
I was watching the TV show Vikings last night with my youngest son (he's a big fan), and one scene caught my attention beyond enjoying the drama. It was the perfect illustration of a life lived through the lens of the story we tell ourselves; the perspective we live through defining the outcomes we create.
Real, or Myth?
If you don't know Vikings, then it's a show about, well... Vikings. So here we are in Denmark in 749 AD...
A couple come for an audience before Lagertha, the wife of the new Earl Ragnar (Ragnar is away pillaging Northumbria).
The husband of the couple wants to inflict a punishment on his wife for being unfaithful. He tells a story of their marriage of fifteen years, trying and failing to have a child. One day, a young stranger, Rig, comes by, spends the weekend at their farm, and nine months later the baby is born.
Lagertha reacts in an unusual way. She questions the wife, and then gives a completely different perspective; telling him how lucky he is.
You should be rejoicing for your wife and son, not punishing them." She tells the husband. "Don't you know who Rig is? He's the God Heimdallr. You should be thankful he chose your house, and blessed your family with a son.
"But that's just a story!" cries the husband.
Our whole lives are stories,
retorts Lagertha, putting closure on the exchange.
“Our Whole Lives Are Stories”
I love that. “Our whole lives are stories.”
We might laugh, but what if it were true that we are living inside a story?
How would we know what is actually true, and what is just that partial view of life that we turn into the story of our current reality?
Like a Sphere
I think of it like looking at a sphere, or a globe.
If we hold the globe, or any spherical object in front of us, we only see part of it. Turn it round and we get a different perspective. Turn it again and what we see changes again.
Just as we can never have a complete picture of that sphere, just as we can never have a complete picture of life.
And even with the part we do see, we only see it through the lens of the story we are telling ourselves.
If we're lucky enough to glimpse something from a higher perspective—if we can zoom out on the globe -- then our reality changes, sometimes in an instant.
You Don't Have to See the Full Picture
It’s OK to only see part of life, part of the story—that’s how life works—we never see the full picture in any given situation.
And there’s no point searching for it, or making meaning of why we only see parts, or agonising over what the next piece might look like—we’re better off enjoying what we can see and knowing it’s partial.
I can choose to explore someone else's reality, to try to see what they see, but that’s just another made-up part of the picture.
Like the Vikings scene, the husband and the lady Lagertha each saw life through the lens of their separate stories.
There is no absolute truth.
Knowing Is Enough
Knowing that my reality is as partial as the next person's seems to be enough to create an inner peace with how life works out.
And, knowing that, regardless of what I see in any moment, I can choose to see the greater good in the other person, their potential and their strength, means that I can respond with more kindness and grace (well, most of the time anyway; none of us is perfect!).
Try It On For Yourself…
Think about this for a moment…
What story are you seeing in your life that someone else, perhaps someone close to you at home or at work, might be seeing differently?
Does that have the potential to create a greater understanding and connection between you?
What are you seeing? And how does it feel?