Truth, Magic, Stories, and the Digital Campfire

Do yourself a favor and watch Marco Tempest on this brilliant six-minute TED video. If you don’t see it here, use this link to go to the TED site to watch it. After you’re done, I’d like to tell two true stories that seem somehow related. And before the video, I want to highlight some quotes from it. First:

Experts believe that stories go beyond their capacity for keeping us entertained. We think in narrative structures. We connect events and emotions and instinctively transform them into a sequence that can be easily understood. It’s a uniquely human achievement.

And second, Marco’s delightful definition of social networking, as…

… the digital campfires around which the audience gathers to hear our stories. We turn facts into similes and metaphors and even fantasies. We polish our affections of our lives so that they feel whole. Our stories make us the people we are, and sometimes, the people we want to be. They give us our identity and a sense of community.

And from there, two true stories:

  1. In the late 1990s there was a business plan that won almost a quarter of a million dollars in MBA-level business plan competitions that was a fictional exercise, using real people, presenting a technology that sounded plausible but didn’t exist. The contestants who submitted and pitched the plan had no intention of ever launching the company it described. They wanted to win business plan contests. And they did.
  2. I once witnessed overwhelming, loud, bawling, personal-loss kind of grief, so all-encompassing that nobody else in a carful of people could talk, over the death of a fictional character is a movie.

And I think that if you watch this TED talk, you’ll see how these two little stories are related.


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