I touch upon the truth contained in stories in my novel The City of Earthly Desire. Toward the end of the novel, a young woman named Brigitta describes the legend of the white stag to the protagonist, Béla. A student of history, Brigitta is interested in the kinds of evidence and hard scientific fact Sam Harris expounds during his debate with Jordan Peterson, but she sees their limits when seen in a larger context of value and truth. After finishing describing the legend of the white stag, she states:
“Of course, it’s all nonsense, historically speaking, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Though I would never admit this to any historian, I have found legends and myths reveal more about a culture than cold, hard facts do.”
I discovered a direct connection to this line of thinking in Jordan Peterson's work a few days ago. On his website, he states:
I came over the course of a decade and a half to understand the meanings of many things that had been entirely hidden from me – things that I had cast away, stupidly, as of little worth. I came to realize that ideologies had a narrative structure – that they were stories, in a word – and that the emotional stability of individuals depended upon the integrity of their stories. I came to realize that stories had a religious substructure (or, to put it another way, that well-constructed stories had a nature so compelling that they gathered religious behaviors and attitudes around them, as a matter of course). I understood, finally, that the world that stories describe is not the objective world, but the world of value – and that it is in this world that we live, first and foremost.
Though it is dangerous to equate everything all characters say as representations of an author's beliefs in a novel, I honestly admit that I hold what Brigitta says toward the end of the book to be true. Though I only discovered Peterson's work a couple of months ago, it is very reassuring to know my beliefs in the power of stories and legends may not be as insane as they initially sound.