Sunday, January 23, 2011

Story and Symphony


The aptitude of Story is defined by our author with a quote from Mark Turner who wrote The Literary Mind, Turner writes "Narrative imagining - story - is the fundamental instrument of thought.....Most of our experience, our knowledge and our thinking is organized as stories." Our author continues by stating that minds remember stories better than facts because it is the natural tendency to remember in that fashion, making stories integral to the human experiences of leaning and sharing.

People had utilized this aptitude for centuries, but during the Information Age there was an opposing sentiment which devalued narrative skills and chose to work with strictly factual information and presentations instead, ignoring the concept that gathering facts in isolation is opposite to how minds naturally work. With the dilemma created by the three A's (Abundance, Asia, Automation), though, facts are readily available hence they have less value and impact, but place them within a rich context and tie them into emotions (the essence of Story), emtional impact and the value of knowledge increases.

The Hero Story, considered a basic story structure, was compared to this book in that the reader will move from consideration of exclusively Left Brain capabilities to the realization of the importance, followed by the acceptance and appreciation, of Right Brain thinking; that Right and Left are complements and both are necessary to a successful life in the near future. This was one of my favorite parts of this chapter because of the connection I felt to the Hero Story in relation to our class of on-line tools. I was comfortable as was, but realizing I was on a low tech level for an educator, pushed myself into this foreign arena, encountered challenges and difficulties which led to struggles requiring new skills to succeed, but with the aid of our Friends in TIE and their magic modems, I will land in comfort as a "hero with a whole new mind".

Hollywood great Robert McKee gives seminars on the importance of storytelling skills and wrote a book entitled Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and The Principles of Screenwriting that is very popular with the Hollywood crowd. Even more surprising is the number and type of advocates who come to his presentations and read his book; they are businesspeople who have determined that Story is important to the economics and happiness of their lives and careers in the Conceptual Age.
There are various examples of how the people of the business world are successfully applying the skills of storytelling. One example is how in 2001, Dr. Rita Charon started a movement focusing on the awareness of the benefits of the aptitude of Story to the medical profession. Since then, many hospitals and medical schools throughout the nation are recognizing and including the skills of Story in their practice and training. They've found untilizing narrative competence promotes the diagnosis and treatment of patients in addition to building stronger patient/doctor relationships, although we are reminded that the skills of Story expand a doctor's abilities, but certainly cannot stand alone.

Story, long neglected, has been brought back into the forefront of the arts, business, and personal arenas. Because many Americans now reside in a time of abundance, we have the time to delve deeper into ourselves, our work, our families, and our world in an attempt to understand our place in the big picture. The outsourcing of white collar jobs to Asia and the capabilities of automation force us to gain a new perspective and develop new skills. Our author believes that the aptitude of Story will be a critical factor for American success in the Conceptual Age.


Our author defines Symphony as "the ability to put together the synthesize rather than to analyze." Symphony is likened to the ability to draw and refers to the book by Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Our author takes a class in drawing, with an instructor who uses this book, to aid the reader understand symphonic thinking. After reading this chapter, I've purchased Edward's book and am excited to first learn from it using myself and my son, then to apply its principles with elementary students in their literature illustrations.

There is a reminder of information from Chapter 2 about how the left and right brain's hemispheres work in a 'simultaneous, contextual, and symphonic manner." Also from that same chapter is the reference to the three A's pushing Americans toward a new approach to, and creation of new, careers, with Symphony being a major asset in the endeavor.
The drawing class demonstrates to our author that he is drawing remembered symbols instead of observing what is actually there. Drawing requires genuine observations of features including their relationships to each other, much as what we must do to become symphonic in our choices of application. The art teacher himself, Bomeisler, emphasizes that 'drawing is largely about relationships, that when combined create the whole,' another point of similarity between the abilities to draw and symphonize. The analogy defines cleaarly what the aptitude of Symphony is and how to apply it.
In the discussion of relationships, the author identifies three types of people as those who will most likely succeed in the Conceptual Age. The boundary crosser, who is able to find success and joy applying their talents and skills regardless of how circumstances my vary from their first choice of application. An interesting point was that gender role stereotypes don't apply to those who can cross boundaries, which makes sense since our societal expectations of gender do create boundaries. The inventor is the second type of person because many inventions combine older ideas into a single new one; again, the approach of utilizing what is with its relationship to the big picture. The metaphor maker, with metaphor being defined as 'understanding one thing in terms of something else", is the final type of person determined by this author to be successful. George Lakoff writes, "Human thought processes are largely metaphorical," and our author points out that while computers can sift and organize information, they cannot recognize relationships as the human mind can. An once again, due to the abundance in American's lives, be it in material goods or the capabilities of technology, understanding and relationships are whatr people are searching for and metaphors expand both.
An interesting piece of data the author shares while citing examples of successful businesspeople is that studies show "self-made millionaires are four times more likely than the rest of the population to be dyslexic." A comparison is made between dyslexia and blindness. People who are unable to use their sight generally have developed their other senses to higher levels of function to increase independence. Dyslexia, which creates difficulties with left brain tasks, pushes the dyslexic to hone their abilities to see the big picture, to problem solve, and to recognize patterns, which are right brain functions and beneficial to today's economic success.

Among the many examples given to support the Aptitude of Symphony is a perspective very different from the past decades; a multimillionaire who prefers poets rather than persons with an MBA to be his managers. His reasoning is that poets have a holistic view as well as the compunction to share their observations and interpretations while striving for understanding makes them "true digital thinkers......tomorrow's new business leaders."

The overall definition of the aptitude of Symphony is "the ability to grasp the relationships between relationships", or the ability to see the big picture. Symphony, by it's very nature of seeing the big picture versus all its parts in isolation, can ease the stress caused by the overwhelming amount of information and choices we have, and the lack of time to deal with them all, by helping us distinguish what in our lives is important and what is trivial.

The author oened this chapter with a self-portrait he drew on the first day of his drawing class; he completes the chapter with another self-portrait from his last day of class. The difference was impressive. He had relinquished his former view of drawing with symbols and had learned to truly see the whole picture as well as the relationships that created it. The drawing metaphor made the aptitude of Symphony very clear and real for the reader.

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