Wednesday, October 10, 2012

the stories we tell...and the ways we tell them

Yesterday I went to the Storyteller talk at Chicago Ideas Week. It was a great lineup of people who tell all kinds of stories in all kinds of ways. There was Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, talking about how a good narrative helps us learn and retain information. There was Arun Chaudhary, the first official White House videographer, talking about the importance of telling a lot of stories, all the time, because "transparency is a discipline." There was a dancer, telling a story we probably all interpreted differently. There was the Chief Creative Officer of the Leo Burnett advertising agency, talking about the narratives that have become such a part of our common experience in just 15 or 30 seconds. And there was A.J. Jacobs, author of a number of book some call "stunt" journalism, or "method" or "immersion" or whatever other word you want to use--basically, they are books where you try something out for a specified period of time and write about it. He's written about: reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica, trying to follow every rule/advice in the Bible, and trying to become the healthiest person.

All of these storytellers talked about the power of narrative in human life, how important stories have been and continue to be. The advertising creator said that the goal of advertising is: "to tell stories that change people, that change the way we live, and so change the world."

(put aside for a moment how scary a reality that is: that advertising's goal is to change people and change the world...what does that mean for who we are and what the world is, and the power of advertising? etc.)

And yes, stories are that powerful. The ways we tell stories changes, of course--from cave drawings to scrolls to plays to books to silent movies to reality television to commercials. Sometimes it takes hours or days (or longer) to get the sweep of a narrative, sometimes it takes a 30 second spot. And American culture is moving from a story being-told-to-us to a story we-are-telling (a multi-voice narrative, not a single voice).

But here's what got me in this presentation: A story is the bedrock of faith. There is a story that we believe can change people, change the way we live, change the world. And we have believed that long before advertising existed.

And our story is a zillion times more powerful, has more potential for transforming us and the world, than the stories of the m-n-m characters or the Mayhem that requires Allstate insurance or reading the Encylopedia or or or or...

And yet.

So how can we get the details, or even just the broad sweep, of our story across in a way that people can hear, and retain, and be transformed? In a world that is no longer about listening to one person talk, or reading a lot of small words on a thin page, or simply believing what we are told, how can the church find a way to tell the most powerful story?

Ideas welcome!

(later, or maybe later in the week, thoughts on truth, facts, stories, reality, etc.)

No comments:

Post a Comment