By Sydney Avey
Corruption, depravity, desperation, sex, medical emergency: is this not the stuff of great stories? Intimacy is the common element that creates a heartwarming or chilling tale.
Today I am pondering the connections between two writers’ explanations of what inspires readers.
Roger Rosenblatt concludes in Unless it Moves the Human Heart: “The heart that you must move is corrupt, depraved and desperate for your love.”
In The Daily Writer Fred White maintains: “Human intimacy lies at the heart of human nature.” He gives as examples of intimacy medical, sexual, and spiritual experiences.
This tells me why so many of the stories that move us involve crime, life threatening medical conditions, and romance.
My 1970s edition of The American Heritage Dictionary omits spiritual experiences in its list of intimacies, but in the 1930s edition of the Dictionary of the English Language (Oxford University) editor Henry Cecil Wyld defines intimacy as something that is knit together in close physical or spiritual relationship.
Intimacy is expressed in details that are private and personal. Our favorite detective stories, murder mysteries and medical dramas are loaded with intimate details. Examples: The murderer who strong-arms a victim and plunges a knife into a vital organ; the doctor who dives his hand into a patient’s chest cavity. We get involved with the intimate details of the crime or the surgery.
Stories about love, sex, and revenge penetrate the essence of our human nature. They reveal intimate knowledge. Example: The shamed child who grew up with malice in her heart and enough familiarity with her antagonist to know exactly how to hurt him.
Some of the most inspiring stories are found in the Bible, the best selling, least-read book of all time. Stories like Sampson and Delilah and Abraham and Isaac knit together the physical and the spiritual and draw connections between desperation and love. We are moved by these stories.
Perhaps God is the greatest storyteller of all time and we are His story.
Sydney Avey writes and blogs in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.