Editor: Sofia Exarchou
The story of Archimedes and the notorious “Eureka” is, if anything, one of the most well-known stories ever written in our science books. We are in Syracuse, in the 3rd century BC. King Heron asks Archimedes to investigate the purity of his new golden crown without melting it down. It wasn’t until Archimedes was taking a bath that it dawned on him, and got naked out on the streets shouting “Eureka!”. At that point Archimedes discovered that when an object sinks into water, the weight of the water displaced is equal to the weight of the object… and so on.
As fervently have we also loved the story of Isaac Newton, who is said to have conceived the idea of gravity in his home garden while contemplating the fall of an apple. And, of course, many of us may not have the slightest idea of the laws of nature or even remember the Archimedes Principle itself, but we will hardly forget the stories of both Archimedes and Newton. Apart from natural sciences, stories and other tales are imprinted on the human mind and help us recall historical events, religious traditions, locations, routes, and more.
This is the power of storytelling, that is to say how a good story helps us remember more facts than other purely scientific texts. The human mind is aroused by stories and narration. When we hear a good story, we move from the position of the simple listener to the position of the active participant and enter the space-time of the story. Our mind is synchronised according to the actions of the characters and we put ourselves in the process of questioning, answering or even solving the problem. By bringing the story to the level of our own experiences, we succeed much more effortlessly to recount a good story (often as if it was ours) rather than to memorise entire paragraphs from a comprehensive and monotonous text.
The method of storytelling is an effective method used by pedagogues and psychologists because of its plausibility, memorisation and its recreational qualities. Our stories expose us to new knowledge, wider prospects as well as a range of possibilities and make the information easier to memorise as we engage in the characters’ actions at the familiar level of human experiences.
A good storytelling is not only a means of transmitting information, but is capable of acting as a driver for personal change by influencing our psyche and emotional response to others. Stories that unfold from the familiar level to the unknown have exceptional narrative dynamics and increase the listeners’ engagement factor. Thus, in cases where the listener identifies with a character that has undergone personal change, the listener has accepted the possibility of change for himself and embraces this transition.
Stories of personal achievements or changes can act as motivational factors and push the listener to brave steps of improvement. But how easy is it for someone to tell their own story? Undoubtedly the autobiographical narrative alerts both the listener and the narrator, as the latter is led to openness, liberation, even redemption by recalling moments of critical decisions or painful events. At the same time, the listener is profoundly moved and can even interact with the narrator by providing useful feedback and coming up with new insights or problematics on the issue. Whichever role you might have, there is plenty of vulnerability and courage involved. So, since it is so beneficial to recount our personal experiences, why don’t we lead our lives as drivers of change for other people? Why should everyone live in the loneliness of their own prickly problems when listening and being listened to is much simpler than we think? Just take a step forward. You probably think your story is not interesting enough to hear, but you’re wrong. There will always be someone who wants to hear your story, even re-narrate it, and find meaning in the words you will say.
And as Jeanette Winterson said, someone will always tell the story of our lives – it better be ourselves.