“Is there a way in which all of us are fictional characters, parented by life and written by ourselves?” asks James Wood in his book How Fiction Works. I read Wood’s book several years ago now but remain fascinated by that thought — particularly the notion that we in some sense write our own lives.
There are external forces that shape us; we are “parented by life,” as Wood says. But we should never lose sight of the internal forces at work; our lives are also “written by ourselves.” It’s the interplay that determines our development.
Gregory of Nyssa chose another metaphor to describe this responsibility of self-authoring. Because we are changeable, we are always coming into being. But unlike a literal birth, which is the product of external forces, this birth of personality “occurs by free choice in accordance with whatever form we wish to have . . . molding ourselves to the principle of either vice or virtue.”
While external forces influence us, to one degree or another we determine our response. And that determination has the moral potential of either immaturity and selfishness or maturity and holiness.
The question is: What story are you going to tell?