I was talking to a couple of guys at work, several months ago. One was telling a story about his family. "My father's father died when he was quite young. Actually it was a strange thing: he was crushed by a horse in an accident...." He was about to go on with the point of his tale, which had nothing to do with the horse, when I interrupted.
"Oh how awful!," I exclaimed involuntarily.
"It's okay," my colleague said a bit uncomfortably. "It was many many years ago -- I never even knew him."
"I know, I'm sorry. I was just distracted by the vision of a little boy watching his father being trampled by a horse."
My colleague eyed me. I think most of his brain space was occupied by thinking what a silly person I was, so be saddened by the 50-years-ago death of a man I did not know. But I like to think, or at least hope, that a little part of his brain also could picture that child, his father, witnessing something awful, and that he felt a little closer to his father because of it.
Too often, my brain translates dry facts into stories. Then I get caught up in the story, even when it has nothing to do with the conversation at hand. It can be distracting to me, and perhaps sometimes annoying to my companions.
On the other hand, it means that my world is richly populated with a tapestry of stories that I see and hear in random places. They are food for my brain to mull over when it is left unoccupied. I see in the people I know more depth and color beyond the facts they share with me -- and even if the history I infer is largely untrue, it still enables me to care about them more because I think about invisible dimensions.