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This is Your Brain on Story

By August 13, 2018 No Comments

You love stories, I love stories, we all love stories, but do you know what they really are?

Let’s get it straight, I don’t love them because they are exciting, entertaining, enlightening or moving — although of course they can be all these things. Rather I love them as a technology. I love what they can do to the human brain, what they have done to the human brain since, well since it became the human brain.

So let’s go back to the beginning, the very beginning.

Let’s talk about language, this is the true fire of the gods. The Promethean flame that illuminated our animal world.

Language is our first and most powerful technology, more brilliant than fire, more versatile than the wheel, it allowed us to literally give voice to our imagination. It allowed us to bring back messages from the astral realm of dream and vision and share them, with stories.

Stories then allowed us to to design and construct a shared consciousness and in turn to perceive a shared, definable, uniform reality. And let’s be clear how we perceive reality IS reality. Like a great man once said –

“What is real? How do you define real? …If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

Yes words from the Wachowskis 1999 masterpiece The Matrix. Is it any less true because it’s a fiction, a story?

Okay if Morpheus isn’t going to convince you I’ll hand you over to economist Keith Chen in his paper ‘The Effect of Language on Economic Behaviour’

“Languages differ widely in the ways they encode time. I test the hypothesis that languages that grammatically associate the future and the present, foster future-oriented behaviour. … I find that speakers of such languages: save more, retire with more wealth, smoke, less, practice safer sex, and are less obese”

In short Countries with weaker future tenses — “I go to the bank”, (German), rather than “I will go to the bank” (English), have better ability to look after their money. 30% better to be precise.
Source

So then can we agree that at least language defines our reality, surely we can agree on that?

But let’s take that further — If Language is a system for defining reality, then stories are tools for affecting reality. If language is the OS then stories are the apps designed to run on and make changes to this operating system — aka perceived reality. Unfortunately if the Bible and the Quran are still top of the download list that means we’re running some pretty outdated software.

So let’s talk about belief. A story is an idea, a belief, condensed and packaged in language. Designed to interface with our own belief systems. Stories are data packets, bundles of emotional information that unfold in our consciousness. Effecting our mind state and in turn how we perceive reality. Information is the matrix (association intended) that our reality runs on and it’s not a passive field. It intersects with physical reality in a meaningful way.

Stories actively effect this information field. They are agents of information. They can appear complex and encoded but they don’t have to be. Symbols are stories — they are tools — that function as blueprints of intent. The Swoosh is a story and somehow it’s a ‘better’ story than 3 stripes. As the Golden arches is a better story than the ever changing Burger King… Whateveritis. Coke is a better story than Pepsi. You get the idea. These brands are all stories — ideas condensed into form that accrue meaning, that stand for something in our personal and collective belief system (BS for short).

And if this sounds dangerously like magic, then that;s because it is, language is pure magic (why do you think they call them SPELLS) it’s a virus, the code to change minds and in turn change the world. And surely in this world of BrexiTrump, climtastrophe and Alt-right flesh eating viruses, we desperately need a new story?

And that’s really why I love them, stories I mean, because, I’d go as far as to say that now stories are the only thing left that can save the world.

So let’s try to tell a new story, it can be words on a screen, words on a wall, it can be fully immersive interactive experience or 140 characters, it can be a hashtag, a meme, a gif. A song, a play. I don’t care just make it. Condense and define your imagination as action and put it out into the world. It’s the greatest gift we’ve got. It’s our oldest and our newest technology, let’s use them together to change the world.

Let’s make a pure story.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Then let’s begin…

JWH

Author JWH

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