The Marvel of Story
Can you recall a story that you heard in your childhood ---a story about something that happened in our family or in our town, or maybe a legend, or perhaps a story from the Bible? How well would you be able to re-tell that story today?
I can still remember a story that my dad told our family over 50 years ago while we sat warming ourselves by the fire one night. I’ve told that same story to my children, and I think I can tell it every bit as good as my dad did! Bible stories are also very memorable for me. For instance, I can still recall hearing the story of Jesus the Good Shepherd when I was 12 years old. It was life changing for me!
One of the great marvels of stories is that they tend to be “sticky” ---that is to say, they stay in our minds. A truly well told story is even more than memorable because it captivates our attention and stirs our imagination as we engage in thinking about it. We are drawn to “live in the story,” and in the process, the story can teach us or cause us to react in some way, perhaps with emotion, or perhaps with some change of belief and behavior. Words and nuances of meaning form pictures in the mind, and whether truth or fiction, or in the present or distant past, it can all seem to come alive in a well told story.
Many peoples around the world decide whether something is true by the quality of the story told about it. This is especially true of “oral learners” because they tend to learn interactively in social relationship and through stories, songs, poetry and proverbs. They process stories through narrative reasoning ---a relational and holistic way of thinking about life and relationships. For them, the stories often don’t need (or maybe shouldn’t even have) an explanation because the stories themselves are regarded as all the evidence and explanation that are needed. When stories are perceived to be complete, cohesive and reasonable in the listeners’ worldview, and are regarded as being told with the authority of one who knows, they are usually regarded as evidence of truth and wisdom. Lack of a complete, cohesive and reasonable story being told with authority is usually seen as falsehood. In some cultures, the eloquence with which a story is told, and the reputation of the storyteller, have a significant impact on how the story is evaluated ---and whether or not people will even pay attention to it.
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How would you describe stories that deeply engage and persuade people in your culture? What do you learn from that?