This TED talk from the fabulous Sarah Jane Murray is really worth watching, digesting and sharing. Largely because Sarah Jane is a talented Storyteller in her own right, a wordsmith and story enthusiast whose passion is seen in every part of her face, you can’t help but be engaged by what she’s saying. It’s reassuring to hear my own passions and beliefs mirrored (that we are hard-wired for story) and to hear that there is stuff going on in our brains at a chemical and electrical level that reinforce the idea that Story is a part of us, that it’s a part of community.
The notion that the recipient of a well-told story, because of the way the brain operates, actually experiences the events as if they had happened to them is one that is not foreign to an Empathic INFJ like myself – for me, it happens all the time sometimes just by looking at someone’s face (hence why I’m emotionally exhausted all the time!) But I love that storytelling (good storytelling that is) allows everybody to share this experience, this idea that we can share experience itself. And that’s why story is key to community – for once you have shared an experience (and on a chemical level if what Sarah is saying is true – and I have no reason to doubt it) then understanding and empathy come more naturally. And once you have understanding and empathy, the community grows stronger. It’s also why sharing stories across the boundaries of the “other” is important – once we’ve heard (and experienced) someone’s story it’s much more difficult to see them as the other. Story is in fact one of the key factors in breaking down prejudice and addressing injustice – once you hear, experience, understand and identify with say a black youth, or a bullied LGBT person, or an immigrant fleeing poverty/persecution (or even simply chasing a better life) then your ideas about them change – because you have been physically changed by their story.
The stories that “other” people carry with them are waiting to be heard – seek them out and share yours in turn. It will help us take another step towards true community, to understanding and to Justice.