Are We Hard-Wired for Happy Endings?
As a little girl, nothing—and I mean nothing—captivated me like a good story. In fact, it was my love of fairytales that occupied my time during twelfth-grade calculus. Sorry, Mrs. Bowman. Obviously this appreciation for fiction has influenced my work as an author, but it has also made me question spirituality’s role in great storytelling.
Now, I’m a Disney-fanatic to the core. Mouse ears, sing-along songs, the works. And if Walt’s legacy has taught us anything, it’s that happy endings sell. But what is it about a prettily packaged conclusion that draws us in? Is our fondness of happy endings an acquired taste, or could this reflect our origin and design?
Roughly 1,800 years after the first fairytale was written, our most culturally popular books and movies still hinge upon heroic themes like justice, love, courage and good will. I would even argue that fairytales are the most timeless stories out there. Obviously we are encouraged by happy endings, but is that just wishful thinking or prophetic hardwiring?
You see, our history as a species resembles a fairytale in a lot of ways. We’ve got an ongoing war between righteousness and evil, an extensive cast of villains and heroes, and a supernatural presence. Don’t forget the happy ending—our enteral reunion with Christ. In a way, it almost seems like God’s design for the world inspired the basic fairytale archetype.
Because we are formed in the likeness of God, we are born with an appreciation for holiness—things like beauty, love, harmony, joy, peace. We love hearing that good conquers evil because someday it will (Romans 16:20). We rejoice when love trumps all because it does (1 Peter 4:8). Maybe our appreciation of well-woven stories is just a symptom of our thirst for holiness—our innate craving for God.
Hans Christian Anderson once said that life itself is the most wonderful fairytale. The great saga of humanity is unfolding right in front of us, and we’ve been given a place in this adventure. We simultaneously script our own lives while contributing to God’s never-ending narrative.
Maybe we are hard-wired for happy endings, or perhaps I’m just a crazy English grad. Either way, we are all part of the most wonderful fairytale of all—the life God has given us.