I have a couple things I’d love to discuss about stories and story-telling, so please just bear with me as I try to corral my thoughts into coherency.
I think that stories, and the human way of using stories to transmit knowledge, is one of the most interesting things I have ever considered. It is one of those unquestioned facets of our culture that, if you stop to consider for just a second, begins touching on very elemental pieces of what it is to be human.
Stories sit at the intersection of learning, communicating, memory, what makes something seem “real”, which details are important. How do we sense which details are important? Is this a sense that can be trained, or is it innate? Is it a side effect of development of another faculty?
Stories don’t just relate facts and events, they also transmit logic, reasoning – they teach you certain ways of thinking, and certain value systems. If you read stories with crafty and cunning protagonists, you will begin to think in a more crafty and cunning way. In that way, a story can become a self-sustaining, self-replicating unit of culture transfer.
Stories are a means of learning from experiences never actually had. They teach you what to expect in situations and what to expect from certain types of people. But they are also a mirror; they show you yourself in characters you would never expect to see yourself in, opening your mind to different possible “you”s.
These are all ideas that, if I were still in university, I would love to write a paper on. Now, I simply will spew it forth onto High Existence and see what returns to me.
I agree completely. Creating hypothetical situations through stories are a great way to allow a person’s empathy or sympathy take control and learn from their common sense (or at least consider common sense alternatives).
That is why I like writing. There’s so much to be learned. Even just reading a story with no real “lesson,” but rather, it has a protagonist that you can relate to. I’ve met people who feel they are entirely alone in their views of the world, ostracized by the general populace they’ve interacted with, and then they read a story about a person who will laugh at the following:
What did the boy with no arms and no legs get for Christmas? Cancer.
Not a lot of people will laugh at that. Some people will. Anti-jokes are cruel. But, some people need the reassurance that they aren’t alone. That they aren’t pariahs and don’t need to be mistreated for their personality or sense of humor. That, alone, is enough to show someone that there is someone out there that thinks this way, or knows someone who thinks this way, and puts it in the story, and you’re not alone.