The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either. A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. What I’m saying is I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given—it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral. If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. The point of a story is the character arc, the change. A character is what he does. My entire life had been designed to make myself more comfortable. Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better. Robert McKee says humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear; otherwise the story will never happen. But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life. The world needs for us to have courage. Most Americans aren’t living very good stories. It’s not our fault, I don’t think. We are suckered into it. We are brainwashed, I think. All of us are living stories, and those stories teach other people to live stories. And what our stories are about matters, not just for us but for the world. You become like the people you interact with. And if your friends are living boring stories, you probably will too. Their story had given them their character. I used to believe charming people were charming because they were charming, or confident people were confident because they were confident. But all this is, of course, circular. The truth is, we are all living out the character of the roles we have played in our stories. The whole point of the story is the character arc. You didn’t think joy could change a person, did you? Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it’s conflict that changes a person. I realized how much of our lives are spent trying to avoid conflict. Half the commercials on television are selling us something that will make life easier. Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life. Growing up in church, we were taught that Jesus was the answer to all our problems. We were taught that there was a circle-shaped hole in our heart and that we had tried to fill it with the square peg of sex, drugs, and rock and roll; but only the circle peg of Jesus could fill our hole. I became a Christian based in part, on this promise, but the hole never really went away. To be sure, I like Jesus, and I still follow him, but the idea that Jesus will make everything better is a lie. It’s basically biblical theology translated into the language of infomercials. When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are. And when you stop expecting material possessions to complete you, you’d be surprised at how much pleasure you get in material possessions. And when you stop expecting God to end all your troubles, you’d be surprised how much you like spending time with God. We have to force ourselves to create these scenes. We have to get up off the couch and turn the television off, we have to blow up the inner-tubes and head to the river. We have to write the poem and deliver it in person. We have to pull the car off the road and hike to the top of the hill. We have to pull the car off the road and hike to the top of the hill. We have to put on our suits; we have to dance at weddings. We have to make altars. I don’t ever want to go back to believing life is meaningless. I know there are biochemical causes for some forms of depression, but I wish people who struggle against dark thoughts would risk their hopes on living a good story—by that I mean finding a team of people doing hard work for a noble cause, and joining them. I think they’d be surprised at how soon their sad thoughts would dissipate, if for no other reason than they didn’t have time to think them anymore. There would be too much work to do, too many scenes to write.