Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The First Learning App

Matthew 13:34 (NLT)
34  Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. 

That was such a cute story!  Did you hear the one about….?  Can you believe what happened last night on the TV show…(fill in)?  I was moved to tears when I heard the story of what they went through.

You cannot go through a day without interacting with a multitude of stories from a multitude of sources.  Why are we so taken up with stories?  It turns out that stories form the bedrock of our understanding of the world around us.  Lisa Cron put it this way in her book Wired for Story (see my book review):

Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution—more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to. Story is what enabled us to imagine what might happen in the future, and so prepare for it—a feat no other species can lay claim to, opposable thumbs or not. Story is what makes us human, not just metaphorically but literally. Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience reveal that our brain is hardwired to respond to story; the pleasure we derive from a tale well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it.

It turns out that stories are imbedded with information we need for facing the challenges of each day.  Our brain is a glutton for information and prefers it in a story.  Stories operate on both an emotional and cognitive level.   Think of stories as the first nonexperiential method of real learning, the first learning app.  I say nonexperiential, but it is not quite true.  If the story has an emotional component then we “experience” the story vicariously. To hear the story about a lion roaming in a certain part of the forest is much easier than the potential outcome of self-discovery.

Stories are critical to helping us understand the rules of living.  This includes character and values.  The catch is the brain disdains lists, but loves stories. The brain wants to “figure it out” not have it handed to us.  This is why inductive study is far more satisfying than deductive study.  The brain loves to engage in the story to figure out what is right and what is wrong.  Through this process, it adds to a life narrative of how we should respond to the world around us.  Core Beliefs (what I hold to be true about the world) and Character (how I relate to others) are enhanced by the stories we listen to and engage in.  As we swim around in this fish bowl of stories our unconscious is pulling from those stories the information it deems important and then melds that to our life narrative. Like a fish sucking oxygen from the water, we absorb information from the stories we listen to or watch.

The foundation of Christianity is not the doctrines of the Bible, it is the story of the Bible.  In particular, it is the wonderful, amazing story of how almighty, eternal God became a baby that he might grow up and suffer a humiliating death so that those he loved could love him back.  Doctrines support the story, not the other way around.

This Christmas tell the most amazing story ever told.  Make the story the center of Christmas, as it is the center of his-story.


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