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Why a good story beats great information

Because we understand the personal far deeper than facts.

One of the things I’ve had reinforced to me in this writing venture of mine – and it’s the same reason why sex education has never really worked in schools – it’s that just providing the right or good knowledge, education, wisdom etc. is not enough for people to get them to listen, learn and/or change. Much in the same way the old saying, “don’t let facts get in the way of a good story”, depicts an inherent superiority of narrative over specifics, if it was as simple to educate a society with the great knowledge we would have done it by now.

“Story” was how information, knowledge and wisdom has been passed down through the ages, take the Gilgamesh epic in ancient Mesopotamia, the oldest written story (over 4,000 years) – and before we wrote we drew stories. Storytellers have always been in demand, be it verbal or written, and what makes them captivating is never their perfect recollection of data.

Charismatic campfire chatter. Image courtesy of Martyn Foster.

“Story” also works at every level of being. The individual has their personal story. The collective has a societal story – in essence that is history, because what is history but the story of our species?

Why a good story beats great information can be explained as why Plato is greater than Aristotle. The contemplative poet-philosopher that is Plato was occupied with the organisation of our souls, whereas the ever action orientated Aristotle was more concerned with practicality and utility. Put it this way, there is a reason why women choose poets as lovers over engineers. There is a reason why “The Symposium” is more memorable than “Phronesis”, for example.

“Tell a man there are a billion stars in the galaxy and he’ll believe you, but tell him the paint on the bench is wet and he’ll have to test it for himself.”

People are bored by the facts. You always hear information described as cold hearted facts, always lacking emotion and passion and devoid of anything capable of stirring (or soothing) the soul. This is perhaps why, in the recent Australian election, Labor’s track record of superior economic management did not affect voters as much as when Liberal Party Prime Minister Scott Morrison took a holiday to Hawaii during the bushfire crisis of 2019-20.

“Everyone has a story, but not everyone has great information.”

Now – if I might be so bold – I’ve always been good at providing sound knowledge in my writing. What I haven’t been so good at is including the human element, the personal, inserting the “I/me” into my posts in order to weave together a beautiful synthesis of truths and tales. I feel this is a significant reason why I have not succeeded (so far) in generating a larger audience and I’m working on this – outside of the general “needle in a haystack” feeling for any online creative today. For most people, they have to resonate with the person they’re reading/listening to in order to keep doing so, and I know that the majority of people do not have a natural intrigue into what I write about. The modern man has a greater propensity for entertainment than education. After all, the character Maximus in Gladiator does not shout, “Are you not educated?!”

I know I’m not the easiest person to understand. However, I have the keys to many doors, but you’re the one that has to walk through them.

We are narrative beings, at our core, story is intrinsic to our way of life. What we have to do, and what I’m trying to do, is unite Mythos with Logos. Story with Logic. Faith with Reason. A good story will speak to us at a level that great information will never reach. That doesn’t mean we give up on knowledge and wisdom, we just need to realise the power and beauty of the human soul and how that communicates and connects with other human souls.

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Personally I think you do better than Aristotle and Plato :-) Love Mum XXX

Martyn Foster
Martyn Foster
May 27, 2022
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You're too kind, mum ❤️ xo

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