Once upon a time. Four immortal words. The beginnings of countless hours of childhood wonder. We never lose our love of stories, but when we are young they are even more magical. I’ve never read the Narnia series myself, but I remember my dad reading all seven of the books to me when I was a kid. Long before Hollywood got its hands on Lewis’ characters, I was enthralled by the possibility that you could step through a wardrobe and find another world. And it was my world. Sure, Lewis created that world and described it in detail, but it was in my mind that it came alive. It was his world, and it was my world. I owned it, inhabited it, loved it. And both Lewis and myself could agree on what it was like without having the same picture in our minds.
Stories can have a powerful effect on who we are and they enable us to find common ground with those we often wouldn’t even share a cup of coffee with. Fairy tales are an interesting example. When we hear the familiar words “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess,” we all have a certain image in our minds. But that image has changed over time. Before Disney began churning out fairy tales on the big screen, you could hear “beautiful princess” without having to agree on what “beautiful” meant. Instead, we all knew the princess was beautiful without discussing what she looked like. We didn’t need to. And this helped us accept a basic truth that’s all but lost from our conscious mind: beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
We all find different people beautiful. There may be some overlap, but often this is due to years of conditioning at the hands of visually stimulating movies and books. Gone are the days when you got told stories without a visual aid. Gone are the days when your imagination gave you the standard of beauty. Here are the days when our view of beauty is dictated to us, and at a very early age. If we want to find a princess, she’s probably going to be white, have long hair (perfectly cut of course), be a size 4 (not to mention disproportionately top heavy), and be dependent on the prince to get her out of trouble. But deep down, that’s not what we all find attractive. There is far more variety in the world we live, and far more variety with whom we fall for. We are perfectly capable of finding more than one body shape attractive, or more than one hair color, or even a girl who can think for herself. Imagine that.