1001 reasons to be optimistic, that’s my goal. If you’ve read About this site, you’ll know the story of Scheherazade inspired my quest.
In the story, King Shahryar discovers his first wife’s adultery. Shattered and furious, he vows revenge. Every night he takes a new wife to bed. Next morning he has her executed.
Though she knows the fate of a thousand slaughtered women, Scheherazade volunteers to wed King Shahryar. She does this although her father is the king’s vizier, which makes him the executioner.
But Scheherazade has no intention of being killed. She has studied history, philosophy, science, art, poetry. She knows stories. On the night of her wedding, she asks the king to allow her to say farewell to her sister, Dunyazad. The king grants her request, and Dunyazad enters the chamber.
Dunyazad asks Scheherazade for a story. As the skilled raconteuse spins the story of the fisherman and the jinni, the king is enthralled. Wisely, Scheherazade stops the story before its end. The king insists she finish the story, which she promises to do the next night.
And so it goes for a thousand more nights, through a thousand stories and the birth of three sons. The king falls in love with her and makes her his queen.
The story still resonates. None of us travels through life without experiencing the sting of betrayal and the urge for vengeance. Even if we haven’t said it ourselves, we’ve all heard people say they’ll never enter another relationship since they all end badly.
They need a new story, one that puts the betrayal in the context of an entire life, that removes its sting, that lets hope back in their hearts.
It isn’t only relationships that need better stories. We need them on the scale of politics, science, environment, and business. We need stories that put love for each other and our planet first, that lead us out of the morass of selfish interest.
That’s why Scheherazade’s example is a hopeful one. She figures out how to end the cycle of violence. And she does it through stories.