How many stories have you heard today? How many this week? Did you lose count? Everything these days seems to be filled to the brim with stories. Some of these stories are direct narratives, and others are non-linear snapshots. A collage of people, emotions, senses, and moments. We persuade through stories, as evidenced in this PsyBlog (thank you to Christopher Allen for sharing).
When we tell with numbers or other forms of data, even if we make the data talk, people rarely experience a deep response. A story creates a point of reference, either through a sympathetic character or setting or through something or someone completely foreign but deeply interesting. Stories embody that which makes life worth living.
So, what do stories have to do with creating compassionate communities or building bridges to rich diversity? Everything. Who are the people you pass in your everyday comings and goings? Who are your neighbors? What do they expect from you and from each other? A stronger fabric of stories leads to a stronger community, for we cannot feel empathy about that which we do not see and do not understand.
I am currently reading a book, The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda. Stories can be simple or complex, and often we desire both. A complex story appeals to our desire for something to chew on, something to stir up the pot and stimulate our nerve endings. A simple story with a powerful message, however, is equally good as a stimulant.
In this TED talk about the ideas in the book, John Maeda weaves a kind of meta-narrative. Very little in our lives these days is simple, yet the simple stuff provides much joy.