I’ve lived the life of an emperor who desired not power nor money but the admiration of his people. I’ve lived the life of a psychopathic serial killer with an urge to kill anyone whose heart is still ticking. I’ve lived the life of an eighty year old widow hoping to find love again. I’ve lived the life of a humanoid robot with the knowledge about this whole wide world but no true way to express it. I’ve lived the life of an athlete ever ready to exchange his blood and sweat for the sense of victory. I’ve lived the life of a paraplegic orphan fighting for a policy change regarding euthanasia. I’ve lived a thousand lives but I’m still in my twenties and I am not from the future (nor from a Christopher Nolan movie😅).
If I remember right, it was Jojen Reed from ‘a song of ice and fire’ by George R. R Martin, who said: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies” and I agree. Stories, both real and fictional, told through books and films are in many ways a shot of memories and experience that is injected into our impressionable brains. When you read about a cancer patient falling head over heels in love with another survivor, you don’t just observe the person from outside, you become that person. You can’t help but cry when they go through a tough patch or smile when they walk around holding hands intoxicated by love. From a scientific perspective, the term ‘mirror neurons’ might be able to explain this to some degree. But I dare not enter that territory at the moment. I’ll leave the ‘why’ part to the ‘real’ scientists and stick with the philosophical side of the phenomenon.
The average life of the modern man, even with advanced technologies and progress in the field of medicine, hesitate to cross the 65 mark. Cancelling out the time we spend sleeping, eating, and thinking about sleeping and eating, we hardly have 30 years on Earth to do something worthwhile. But how much can we actually do in a span of 30 years? Not to be a pessimistic piece of jerk, but nothing much really. Well, there have been people who did achieve fabulous feats before they turned 18 or stepped into their 30s. But there would have been a thousand more things they wished they could have done if given a chance. This is where stories come in. They could be in the form of written words in poems and prose, or presented as a movie showcasing the different time lines of one’s existence. You may acquire stories even by talking to another human being- friend or foe. In case you didn’t know, Netflix isn’t the sole proprietor of these stories- You are surrounded with stories of all kind. You just have to learn to listen to those stories. Yes, it is important that you write an epic story of your own as well. But trust me, if you don’t spend time to go through the stories that have already been written before you, yours will cease to be any different from those. I know it is a bit confusing- but think about it; almost all of us have been spoon-fed the same syllabus since kindergarden, we go through a lot of the events together, a lot of us choose the same career path, and so on. We might think it is best that we avoid stories that aren’t our own so that we can cook up a different one. But most often than not, what happens is that your ignorance of the myriad of stories around you will only squeeze out a story of similar formula from you. You get familiar with the stories around you and you’ll be able to find a path less travelled by.
The more realistic and relatable the stories are the better. You don’t just listen to those stories or watch ‘em, you experience the plight of the characters, you go through everything the protagonist goes through, you feel the pain and joy- you live the life of the character. Having experienced at least a thousand stories on my own, I assure you- each story will change you in a way that you never could have predicted before. Each story imparts the wisdom of a lifetime in a couple of hours and changes your perceptions and thoughts on the world you live in.
But it is not enough to just read, listen or watch these stories absent minded- you have to make an effort to learn from them, analyze them, and simply reflect on them. You might seem like a single mind in a single body- but inside resides all the characters you read about and watched. And that is how you live a thousand lives in one.