Useful And Fantastic: Applied Imagination - 4
We can learn from the vicarious experiences provided by stories says Val Yule.
Imagination In Storytelling
Stories are not just a trivial pleasure. Narratives both fantasy and factual have an evolutionary function. By this simple mode, our ‘story-using brain’ can organize and express ideas, and guide interpersonal behaviours, our sense of sense and where we are going. Stories provide vicarious experience to learn from, in a form that enables human behavior to be more flexible than if is directed only by instinct, early imprinting, imitation, reasoning and the prescriptions of our elders. Group-shared stories express cultural values and laws, and so help to guide how individuals behave. ‘Language can be used as a form of social grooming that extends far beyond one-to-one personal touching’.
Narrative is the most simple and effective way to comunicate and transmit long-term the ideas and ways of a culture. We learn from the stories of people who are distant in time and place, or who may no longer exist, or never existed. Stories instruct, inspire, divert and console They are a way to manipulate experience. No story can avoid carrying a message about what the world is like, and how to behave in it, whether or not there is a stated moral at the end. We live by myths.
Teaching about the past, interpreting the present, and considering the future are most easily brought into the present by narrative because sequence in time is the easiest structure to remember. Style, ritualized formats, and metrical forms act as mnemonic devices.
A good ploy of Nature is to persuade us to enjoy food and sex. It is fortunate for our survival as a species. Stories are so pleasant to us, we love to hear and read and watch stories, and this natural enjoyment is like another ploy of Nature, because they too help to ensure our survival. And, as with food and sex, cultures add more qualities to the business of stories, and use them for many other benefits, and also can use them for harm.