Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stories are how we understand best

In Athens back in 388 BC, Plato petitioned to the City Fathers (or members of the city’s municipal council) to exile and banish all storytellers from the city for the “safety” of its citizenry. He argued that they are threats to the society at large by reason that they do not communicate ideas in an open and rational manner as with philosophers. Instead, the storytellers hide their ideas within the seductive emotions of art.

Plato knew that storytellers have the ability to influence the citizens by concealing potent ideas in compelling yet deceptively straightforward stories. Plato argued that each well-constructed story will deliver a charged idea out into the minds of the citizens, and therefore effectively compelling them to believe and accept the idea, even if it may be morally repugnant. Plato knew that concealing an idea within a story magnified the power of that idea far beyond simply sharing the idea alone.

The reason for this is that stories emulate the way we think. In our daily lives, we literally think in narrative structures as if we are telling an ongoing story of ourselves. May it be talking about the events which occurred during our day, connecting with a friend over a cup of coffee, or reflecting on our experiences just before we go to bed, we inadvertently think in a storyline format. It is because of this, stories naturally imprint themselves into our minds without any effort on our part.

Stories are how we understand best.

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