A man walked down a country road to visit a friend. His friend was a farmer and lived in a modest house surrounded by fields and forests. As the man approached the front porch, the farmer swung open the door to greet him.
When the man grew closer, he heard a faint howling coming from the barn beside the house. Soon he recognized it as the pained yelps of the farmer's dog.
"What's wrong with your dog?" He asked.
The farmer absently replied "Oh, he's sitting on a nail."
"Well, why doesn't he move?" The man asked confused.
"Doesn't hurt enough yet."
Goya "As if" or "as though it were".
This month's word comes to us from the Urdu language, which is the official language of Pakistan and parts of India.
Like many of the words we are grappling with, it has no direct translation in English. One of the more elaborate attempts to explain Goya that I have found says it is
"the momentary suspension of disbelief that occurs when fantasy is so realistic that it temporarily becomes reality."
Many of the examples draw from the transportive power of story, the power to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. That space when people believe the story "as though it were" real.
This facet of good storytelling is exactly why we began this project and why it must naturally evolve to include parables, fairy tales and legends. The power of these tools to effect and change us is because of their Goya. I read once that the power of stories over facts and figures is that they don't tell us how to live a better life; they show us.
A good movie blurs the line between fantasy and reality so much so that we can really imagine passing its characters on the street. We effortlessly step into their shoes. We empathize as though they were sharing their life story with us over coffee in our living-rooms.
The story at the beginning is a paraphrase of a story that Amanda Palmer shared in her book "The Art of Asking". In the highly auto-biographical book, she shared about a mentor-mentee relationship she had with an older neigherbor for most of her life. In times of teen angst and self-destruction, she called him time and time again, asking "Why do I keep doing this? I know better! Why can't I stop?"
He replied with that story. It didn't matter if it was factual or not. It didn't matter that the story was about a dog. It enabled her to imagine a better way. To forgive herself. To know she wasn't alone. To understand that she wasn't a freak, a lost cause or less than human.
I can't say I completely understand what Goya means, but I know that without suspending disbelief about parts of that or any story, they ring hollow. The power dies under the scrutiny of the details.
Without some sort of Goya, a story is just another fact or simply a lie.