No matter how independent we shape our individual lives to be, at the end of the day, being humans, we do need to be socially connected. It is this instinct that makes me curiously observe how our associations take shape. And more often than not, I find us humans strongly bound together by stories.
Yes, that’s right. Whether it is one of the classics we used to hear in our childhood, or the ones closely knit with our culture, the one our parents pull out from their past, ones we find in our favorite comic books, or the ones rooted in our faith; there is always some narrative that brings us all together in a given moment.
Now, is that so?
Well, we just cannot undermine the influence of stories on our lives. Each one that we ever heard, read, saw or lived, left its impression on us in its own distinct way. This does sound a bit over stretched, I know, but a deeper dive in your subconscious would reveal all their resulting markings on the walls of your cerebral cavern.
I remember how books from the Penguin Ladybird series became my first ever best friends as they took me on amazing rides to far off lands in the company of seven dwarves, Red Riding Hood, Tin Woodman, Mad Hatter, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and so many more. These no doubt added to my cognitive abilities in the most fun way possible. No, I did not switch to mathematics here, I am still referring to these fictional stories. Even the slight mention of which has dipped you in nostalgia of your moments with those magical characters – hasn’t it? I can tell by this smile on your face right now.
The best introduction I got to science was when I was told that there’s this old lady on the moon who keeps an eye on all the kids on earth and takes away children who don’t listen to their parents. At that age, just wonder what joy my imagination would have had over the thought of someone living on the moon, all the way up there in the dark sky, with earth in their reach. Amazing, no? Astronomy, science fiction, alien invasion, all in one – bring it on!
Then we have the stories of the lives of great people which continue to inspire us every day. Even with thousands of years of retelling, millions of pages written, and billions of minutes of visuals available, just tease another account of Jesus’s life to make an entire populace anticipate. From the description in his own words at Stanford’s Commencement Address in 2005, Walter Isaacson’s ‘authorized’ take in 2011, to the more recent account by his own daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, in Small Fry (2018), we continue being inspired by the story of Steve Job’s life. And trust me, it has nothing to do with the lives of celebrated individuals. Granted that their stories find a massive outreach with minimum effort but just head over to Ted Talks and you’ll see how stories make their own way to the hearts. Oh and, Ted Talks is only one of the examples.
Okay, I confess! I am kind of feeling you here now.
Cool. I knew you’d come through on this.
Yeah, yeah. Relax. You may proceed with your rant!
I believe it’s all about communication. Sharing ideas. Expressing feelings and opinions. Letting others in on your problems. Offering solutions. Yes, storytelling, in any form covers all these basics of communication and that too in most fun ways. The impact stories leave is apparently so subtle yet so powerful and lasting that it could resonate through minds and evolve into a whole new drive in no time. Talking of communication, remember how wireless voice ‘Communicator’ in Star Trek made jaws drop when the show originally aired on TV? And here you are swiping your way through this post on a wireless communication device – one that’s most essential part of your daily life today. This, by the way, is just one little example of how earlier science fiction stories like Star Trek and Star Wars inspired a whole generation of techies – leading us to where we are today; in the land of internet, cloud computing, autonomous cars, and what not!
You seriously can’t take credit away from all other faculties and place everything in the basket of mere story telling. It takes engineers, scientists, mathematicians, doctors, architects and so many more professionals to make the world run and progress as it does today. Wonder how far your stories would’ve gotten the world on their own!
Oh mate, you’ve gotten it all wrong here. Question is not how far stories alone would take the world without support from any other professions. Instead, you should be pondering over the state of world today had there been no stories in the first place – this leaves a very bleak and dark image in my mind, to be honest. Stories have this great power of introducing us to an alternate reality. Whatever we find in inspiring biographies had actually happened – which means that it’s not just real but also possible to achieve again. Whereas, whatever we find in fiction shows us the world that can be – this aspires us to set our next milestone and go for it. This is what drives us to achieve the impossible.
Realists often raise this very point too but let me offer an explanation in Michael Margolis’ words, “The stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story. This truth applies both to individuals and institutions.”
Progress takes place when one is able to think beyond the obvious. It is a direct product of your imagination. It reflects heavily on one’s ability to perceive the world as is while continuously staying on the lookout to make things better.
So, my friend, sincere advice to you would be to create as many stories as possible. Live a deep life and fill it with substance - this content is what defines you as a story teller – be good at it.