The human spirit thrives on drama. Have you ever noticed this?
It’s counter-intuitive, in a way, because we all say things like, “I hate drama,” or “I just don’t need that kind of drama in my life,” but we also line up to see movies where the captain of a cargo ship has to fend off pirates, or a young person is faced with a grim choice—and steps in heroically to save her younger sister.
If this isn’t drama, I don’t know what is.
And like I said, we don’t just enjoy drama. We thrive on it.
We function our best in the midst of dramatic situations.
When the twin towers were attacked in New York City, and the skyline crumbled within a matter of hours, we witnessed as the best of the human soul emerged. In the middle of the worst possible conditions, strangers offered money, prayers, and anything else they had to help. An off-duty firefighter abandoned his vehicle and raced across town (in full gear) to rescue any survivors.
No competition. No jealousy. No comparison. No judgment. Just an unbiased willingness to get to work and do something awesome.
As a human race, we do really well with drama.
Have you ever noticed this in your own life?
Maybe you have a job interview, or a plane to catch, and suddenly waking up at 6:00 in the morning doesn’t feel quite so complicated. Your alarm goes off, and you just get right out of bed (or maybe you wake up before your alarm). Consider the last time something new and different was going on in your world—you were going to a concert after work, or someone you loved was coming to town.
Didn’t it make you feel more alert, more alive and more awake throughout your day? Didn’t you kind of feel like you were on cloud nine?
Or, maybe something painful happened—you had a loved one in the hospital, or your house burned down, or you were waiting to hear important news. Didn’t you suddenly feel like your priorities were snapped into perspective?
Did you see the best of yourself come out?
I’ve been a pretty dramatic person for most of my life.
I used to be a terrible exaggerator (sometimes even to the point of lying). This is something I’ve worked to change, and have made major progress, but every now and then I still find myself saying something like, “There were literally one billion people there!” (To which my friends respond, “Yes, Ally, one sixth of the world’s population was literally at the coffee shop by your house”).
And yet, despite my dramatic ways, I would still find myself saying, along with everyone else, “I don’t need that kind of drama in my life!”
But recently, it occurred to me: We actually do need drama in our lives.
In fact, I think that’s part of the problem. We were made for drama. We were designed for it.
That’s when the really nasty drama (and the worst sides of ourselves) come oozing out. This is where lying comes from, and fighting and arguing and blowing things out of proportion. This is where jealousy and comparison come from, where backstabbing and gossip come from, when we start judging others.
This is when we start to panic about what would happen if someone broke into our house, or if we retired without enough money, or how we would cope if our identity was stolen.
We need drama that matters for something.
What if, instead of waiting for drama to happen to us, we went out and found it. In a way, that sounds like the worst advice in the world, but here’s what I mean by it: What if we engaged in the drama of saving people’s lives?
What if we made beautiful music that would lift spirits?
What if we wrote books that would shift people’s hearts and minds?
What if we put our lives on the line to save people from slavery, children from starvation?
What if we put our hands to materials—actual physical materials—and made something useful with them?
What if we saw our work as so important, so utterly vital to the beauty and meaning and purpose of the world, that we would risk everything for it—we would let go of house and home, we would hold loosely to our possessions, and we would see every bad thing that happened to us as simply an obstacle in the way of reaching the ultimate goal?
Maybe, then, drama wouldn’t be so bad after all.