Do you remember that scene in “Office Space” during which Peter asks his neighbor, Lawrence, what he would do if he had a million dollars? The idea being that whatever you’d do if money weren’t the main motivator is what you’re ideally suited to do, or be. (By the way, I love Lawrence’s response: “Two chicks at the same time, man.” Classic. Maybe that means he should be in porn?) I’ve been thinking about this lately because things at my place of employment are somewhat unstable and, though I genuinely love the work I do – I am a science-nerd, after all – what I would do if I could magically pay my bills without having to punch a clock day in and day out, is write. I would write story after story, blog post after blog post. Novels, screenplays, short stories. I would sit, fingers poised on the keyboard of my laptop, cup of coffee within reach, and see just what, exactly, I might have to say.
As I’m sure you’ve surmised, I already do this. A bit. I love to read and write the way athletes love to play, the way musicians love to jam. It’s my hobby but also my passion, my love. If I were a trust fund baby, this is how I would use my time.
It may seem like a frivolous way to spend one’s energy and I understand that logic, really. It’s a small part of what led me to my career in science, the idea that writing isn’t relevant enough to be more than a hobby. But the truth is, even though it isn’t vital in the way medicine is, for example, storytelling must be essential to the plight of man because it has existed in one form or another for nearly as long as man has existed. The story as told in a film, in a book, in a song, a poem, was part of the oral tradition before the written language came to be and I suspect that when man came down out of the trees, part of his survival (maybe part of what drove him further along on the evolutionary trail) depended on the need to tell a story. And his need to hear one.
It’s how we discover ourselves, the true nature of humankind. It’s how we learn what we believe to be truth. It’s how we make sense of life.
If I had a million dollars, I would tell a million stories.