Dreams are stories we tell ourselves.  These stories get us out of bed in the morning. And today of all days we celebrate those stories on World Storytelling Day.

But I personally adopt a contradictory perspective on stories and dreams. They are essential to our well-being…which is why they should be regularly attacked and even killed. One example is the set of stories we tell ourselves about how the world works. These models are the foundation to us going about our daily life and how all our modern technology works, but the sceptic in me seeks to constantly seek new answers and alternative perspectives. Another example are our “dreams” themselves which I argue repeatedly need to be sunsetted on a regular basis.

One of the best TED talks on storytelling is Tyler Cowen’s “Be suspicious of stories”.  An undercurrent of embracing failure pervades the presentation from the title to comments like the following…

  • “Probably I was wrong”
  • “It’s the people who realize that they don’t know anything at all who end up doing pretty well.”
  • “Be a little more messy…be more comfortable about agnostic.”

He asks a powerful question not about stories themselves, but at Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter would say, the ‘un-stories’ – "What are the stories that no one has any incentive to tell?"

For me, one of those themes is “Duality”. The notion that something can be both ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ at the same time. The classic, though often misapplied, metaphor for this is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. One of the reasons I enjoy the writer Douglas Hofstadter so much is that he regales in such paradoxes.

Curiously though, this story mode has become an incrasing staple of current day TV hits – Sopranos, Lost, Dexter, Homeland, House of Cards. The “bad guy” as protagonist. Is Walter White doing good or doing wrong?

My favourite “duality” portrayal is the episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” titled “The Can Opener” (below)

And everyone lived happily ever after (or did they?)…

 

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