Column: The importance of story
Jewel Pickert is a Hastings resident.
Since the cavemen days, we have always been hard-wired to listen to stories. Because stories elicit emotion. We feel tender when we hear about a puppy, laugh when something humorous happens, cry at sad or special moments, and get angry at perceived slights. This is all part of the human condition.
When stories inform, we learn more about the world around us and our place within it. Who doesn't want to know when a tornado is approaching or how our forefathers lived?
We learn valuable lessons about who to trust, who to believe, and who and what to avoid. We've all heard about people who belong to the "wrong crowd," for instance. The "wrong crowd" usually refers to those using illegal drugs, committing crimes or just causing unnecessary mayhem.
Sometimes, those in the "wrong crowd" become indignant at being cast in a negative light. They might resort to telling stories about being a victim. Yet, the choice was theirs to make.
Stories don't have to always be bad. Good stories give us hope. They provide the fuel that ignites our dreams and imagination. If we see that one person can beat the odds and overcome an insurmountable challenge, for instance, we think we can, too.
Stories also connect us when we have shared or similar experiences. They create a bond that can be lasting.
Storytelling does have its caveats, though. For instance, when someone does well in school, that person deserves the kudos for his/her achievement.
I'm not talking about grade inflation here. Instead, I'm referring to a student who genuinely learns the material and does well. In other words, they don't get an "A" just for participation.
So, in this case, when others in class demonize an achiever instead of applauding his/her accomplishment, they're in the "wrong crowd," too, in my opinion.
Since stories weave the social fabric of a society together, if told recklessly, they can destroy the very culture they could have upheld.
Remember learning lessons about who to trust, who to believe, and who and what to avoid?
For example, some people might avoid spiders because of what others have told them. But spiders perform a valuable role in our ecosystem. They help to control the insect population. Usually, they go about their business, while leaving us alone. Of course, we need to take care around any poisonous varieties, lest we get bitten.
There's an art to telling stories well, too. If you've ever encountered anyone who drones on and on without letting you participate in a conversation, you'll know what I mean. Or maybe, someone will throw every detail imaginable into a conversation. With so many details, it can be quite confusing and difficult to get the intended point. Better to be selective in what you tell if you want to make sure you're understood.
If you want to read a well-told story in a short period of time, read "Aesop's Fables" or even any of the Dr. Suess books. Why did I mention these? Because they're both simple and timeless.
Stories will never go away. They make up a large part of our communication. Just remember, they come with caveats.
As always, I will strive to add a dose of realism, while putting some worth in your while.