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Emily Dickinson said over a century ago
that there is no frigate like a book to take us lands away,
and it's true.
When we pick up a book, turn on the TV, or watch a movie,
We're carried away down the currents of story into a world of imagination.
And when we land, on a shore that is both new and familiar,
something strange happens.
Stepping on to the shore, we're changed.
We don't retrace the footsteps of the authors or characters we followed here:
no. Instead we walk a mile in their shoes.
Researchers in psychology, neuroscience, child development, and biology
are finally starting to gain quantifiable scientific evidence
showing what writers and readers have always known:
That stories have a unique ability to change a person's point of view.
Scholars are discovering evidence that stories shape culture
and that much of what we believe about life comes not from fact
but from fiction, that our ideas
of class, marriage, and even gender
are relatively new, and that many ideologies which held fast for centuries
were revised within the 18th century, and re-drafted in the pages of the early novel.
Imagine a world where class, and not hard work, decide a person's worth.
A world where women are simply men's more untamed copy.
A world where marriage for love is a novel notion.
Well, that was the world in which Samuel Richardson's Pamela first appeared.
Richardson's love story starred a poor, serving-class heroine
who is both morally superior and smarter than her upper-class suitor.
The book, challenging a slew of traditions,
caused quite a ruckus.
There was more press for Pamela than for Parliament.
It spawned intense debate and several counter-novels.
Still, for all those who couldn't accept Pamela,
others were eager for this new fictional world.
This best-seller, and all its literary heirs,
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and yes, even Twilight,
Have continuously shared the same tale, and taught similar lessons
which are now conventional and commonplace.
Similarly, novels have helped shape the minds
of thought leaders across history.
Some scholars say that Darwin's Theory of Evolution
is highly indebted to the plots he read and loved.
His theory privileges intelligence,
swiftness, and adaptability to change- all core characteristics in a hero.
Whether you're reading Harry Potter or Great Expectations,
you're reading the kind of plot that inspired Darwin.
Yet recent studies show that his theory might not be the whole story,
our sense of being a hero- one man, or one woman, or even one species
taking on the challenges of the world might be wrong.
Instead of being hard-wired for competition,
for being the solitary heroes in our own story,
we might instead be members of a shared quest.
More Hobbit than Harry.
Sometimes, of course, the shoes we've been walking in can get plain worn out.
After all, we haven't walked just one mile in Jane Austen or Mark Twain's shoes,
we've walked about a hundred trillion miles in them.
This isn't to say that we can't read and enjoy the classics,
we should travel with Dickens,
let Pip teach us what to expect from ourselves,
have a talk with Austen and Elizabeth about our prides and prejudices.
We should float with Twain down the Mississippi,
and have Jim show us what it means to be good.
But on our journey, we should also keep in mind
that the terrain has changed. We'll start shopping around for boots
that were made for walking into a new era.
Take, for instance, Katniss Everdeen and her battle with the Capitol.
Can Hunger Games lead us into thinking about capitalism in a new way?
Can it teach us a lesson about why the individual should not put herself before the group?
Will Uglies reflect the dangers of pursuing a perfect body
and letting the media define what is beautiful?
Will Seekers trod a path beyond global warming?
Will the life and death struggles of Toklo,
Kallik, Lusa, and the other bears chart a course for understanding animals
and our place in their world?
Only the future will tell which stories will engage our imagination,
which tales of make-believe we'll make tomorrow,
but the good news is this:
There are new stories to venture in every day.
New tales that promise to influence, to create, and to spark change.
Stories that you might even write yourself.
So I guess the final question is this:
what story will you try on next?
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【TED-Ed】How fiction can change reality - Jessica Wise

8479 Folder Collection
VoiceTube published on June 6, 2013
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