Connecting with Stories – Episode 2
Stories, in their simplest form are narratives that keep the brain organised and memory functioning in good strength.
But, if stories are so simple, why is there any need for drama?
A drama is an emotional story. Let us take for example our birthdays – birthdays are here to remind us of our age. But, otherwise, it is just another day. It is when we decide to add sugar and spice to the simple story of the day we were born, that it becomes a drama. We hold parties, splurge on dresses, plan outings, and try to create as much drama as possible around the simple incident of coming out of the mother’s womb.
Why do we do this?
Every time we visited her, my mother loved to relegate the “tale of his birth” to my then toddler son. Each time the story would have an additional scene – the baby’s cry would have grown louder; a nurse would have “wowed” over him more than the last time; or I would have suffered for another hour or two with my labour pains – the list was endless. When I remember the drama my mother played out in front of my son, I can also understand the drama our mind plays out every time we try to recollect an important incident.
If stories stay simple, then we won’t be able to recollect them after a certain time period.
How can that happen?
The neurons in our brain are constantly making connections with the information that is coming into through our senses. So, the algorithm of birthdays would look like this.
Birthday = Date of birth
That’s very simple. Except that the brain’s neurons need to be reminded of this connection to keep it going. And so, we decide to do things that will keep the memory of the birthday strong. That is why we introduce the element of drama into it.
Is this absolutely necessary?
Birthdays don’t require anything more than noting down the date in our calendar and either thanking our parents or abusing them for being the cause of our birth, depending on how our life is turning out for us. So, does our brain really need this amount of drama? Definitely not for birthdays. But there are times when the drama is required.
Really? When are those times?
Imagine a life without Aesop’s fables, the Panchatantra, or your own grandmother’s stories of wisdom and good behaviour. When I imagined a life without these stories, I also imagined a life without values and virtues. That is what the Bible, the Mahabharata, Buddha’s teachings and most ancient tales are all about – they are here to remind and instill the values that make a human, human.
If I told my son to be good and do good, his first question would be “Why should I do that?” My niece prefers to stay a “bad” girl when we tell her to behave. My best friend’s son chooses easy over difficult, even though he knows that it is difficult that is good for him. It is only when we help them understand the essence of a strong value system, that they listen, understand and follow.
Everyone knows that they have to be good and do good. But if we wanted to know why and how, then the values that are taught need a story behind it. Stories came much before the written word, and the only way to record these tales were to repeat them to others. This act of repeating a story also gave birth to the other art forms like dance and music. Every time a story got repeated, it was enhanced with a modification. A fox might lose its tail the first time, and grow it back the next time, or a crow might steal the first time and apologize for it the next time. These additions and subtractions induced the emotions that the story-teller wanted his audience to feel.
Because, it is only when we feel, that we perform. We feel grateful for the loyal mouse who kept his promise to help the lion. We feel happy for the slow tortoise who won the race. And we feel proud of the smart crow that rose the little water in a jug to a drinkable level. We feel, and then we get inspired to perform similarly. And so, the need for drama.
When does drama become an over-kill?
Before that, let’s try out some self-introspection;
- What is your favourite kind of drama? This will help you figure out the emotions that affect you the most.
- Do you celebrate your birthdays?
- If you do, how do you do this and why do you do this?
- What are the values that you identify with?
- How did you become aware of these values?
- How did you learn values as a child?