On the way to Comic-Con this weekend, Rama read me a story. He often reads to me while I’m driving, and I love it. He’ll read a piece from Esquire magazine or he’ll share a funny part in a comic, something fun that keeps our mood light. This time, he read The Life of God as Told By Himself, a book he’s been trying to get me to read since we met, and I was hooked. There was traffic, but pretty soon I didn’t even notice. Instead, I was listening to my husband tell me how God made the stars from his tears.
I’ve been going to Comic-Con for 8 years now, before I had any interest in comic books. My friend Erlina invited me to keep her company while her then-boyfriend-now-husband Miguel geeked out. It was such a ridiculous and fun time that I kept going back, and now it’s a tradition for me and Rama. Now I have my own comic favorites, booths I want to visit and friends I want to see. This year, though, I was really excited because one of my favorite writers and artists, Lynda Barry, was going to be there.
Lynda Barry is one of my heroes. Her stories about the wonderfully smart and spastic Marlys cracked me up and the moving tale about 16-year-old Roberta in Cruddy moved me to tears, but her book One! Hundred! Demons! transformed me. Her “autobifictionalographic” tales, many starring her funny Filipino grandmother, made me think about storytelling in a different way. It inspired me. It gave me faith in my own life and stories.
Needless to say I was so nervous to meet her, but as Rama predicted, she was just so nice. She remembered Rama from some postcards he’d sent her and, after prompting, remembered the comic about me that he’d included. I was prepared to be tongue-tied, so I wrote her a note with everything I hoped I could say and slipped it to her as she signed my copy of What It Is. And as she warmed up to us, I warmed up to her, and pretty soon we were speaking in Tagalog, exchanging jokes and hugging goodbye. I met Lynda Barry! I squealed to Rama the rest of the day.
Later that afternoon, we attended a panel discussion that featured writers Grant Morrison and Deepak Chopra talking about the spirituality of superheroes. There was so much said, and I’m still digesting a lot of it, but the message I heard over and over again is that we need these stories. The superheroes give us something to live up to. They give us hope. It was such a simple idea, and yet it felt like a revelation to me.
I realized then that my whole weekend had been about stories. About the power of a good tale and its ability to give us hope, whether on a slow and frustrating drive on a crowded highway or during a tough and treacherous time in history.
There are stories being told that will break your heart and scare you to death. They print them in the papers and stream them on TV over and over again until it’s playing like a broken record in your head. But we don’t have to listen to them and we certainly don’t have to believe them.
Instead, let’s tell the other kind kind of stories. I want to hear about the good things in your life, your joys and triumphs, your aspirations and dreams. Those are the stories with real power. Those are the stories that can change our world.