Story telling benefits on human beingsBy prof. Ferrario PaoloWhen I was asked to write a piece about storytelling, I must confess I was taken quite aback. “Let it grow inyour mind” I said to myself, “Let your mind roam, something will come out of it!”.Story reading, story writing, story listening, story telling … stories… .Just some weeks ago, at home for dinner, on the radio we heard references to a popular tale, I can’tremember which now, and my son started retelling it. I was surprised and puzzled: “Do you know it?” I askedhim. “Of course” he replied “Can’t you remember it’s one of the tales Mum and you used to read us in theevening when we went to bed before we fell asleep!”. “You fool!” I said to myself… “Long term memoryactivated…Mission accomplished!” Memory stays… About fifteen years had elapsed. So …… storytelling does activate long term memory while arousing emotions … awe, fear, joy, cheer, while triggering sighsor smiles. More than that, stories have such a capacity to strike children that not only the gist, the contents butalso the emotions, remain for ever rooted in their ancestral memories, in their inner selves, in the most intimaterecesses of their minds.And certainly listening to and reading stories enhance intelligence and learning. They help build the “LinearThought Capacity” that is our mind’s ability to sequence events, identify causes and effects, process details,link them to the core topics, and connect them to one another. All of this at an abstract level, that is: with noneed to refer to visual images whatsoever, just relying on and producing abstractions. That means buildingintelligence, doesn’t it?“Intelligence only?” You’ll be wondering… “Intelligence only?”“Well, what about imagination?” “Right you are!...What about imagination?” All these processes in our mindcertainly build up our imaginative faculties. Of course: abstractions imply and need imagination! Who woulddeny it?“To see a World in a Grain of SandAnd Heaven in a Wild Flower,Hold Infinity in the Palm of your handAnd Eternity in an hour”(W. Blake, Auguries of Innocence)“And I know that This World is a World of Imagination and Vision. I see Every thing I paint in This World. ButEvery body does not see alike…”(The Letters of William Blake. “To Dr John Trusler”, August 23, 1799)“I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of Imagination – What theImagination seizes as beauty must be truth - …”(J. Keats, “Letter to Benjamin Bailey”, November 22, 1817)So to the eyes of Romantic poets, Imagination allows us to reach and understand truth, to comprehend reality.According to Keats, beauty can be discovered and achieved thanks to imagination, and beauty may havesomething to do with harmony. Harmony within ourselves, with our fellow beings, within our societies…ToBlake, on the other hand, imagination is also freedom, freedom to develop and evolve without restrictions,without predefined patterns or schemes… but that would take us too far… let’s not start dreaming!Is imagination still relevant to us, modern men and women of the global village?“What’s the point of it? What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” Haroun asks his father Rashid (thestory teller) in Chapter 1 of Salman Rushdie’s “Haroun and the Sea of Stories”.
Later, however, engaged in his fight against Khattam Shud, the dictator in the country of Chup - the land ofcold and darkness - who is trying to pollute the Source of Stories in the Sea of Stories, Haroun himself askshis enemy “Why do you hate stories so much?” … “Stories are fun!” and Khattam Shud answers: “The worldhowever is not for fun” … “The world is for controlling!” .Eventually Haroun, just a kid, will manage to prevent Khattam Shud from polluting the Source of Stories alsothanks to his imagination and generosity. Khattam Shud himself will be overthrown and peace and harmonyre-established on the moon Kahani.When Rashid, the storyteller, tells of his and his son’s adventures in fighting Khattam Shud at a political rallycalled to support, in the forthcoming elections, the local bosses, themselves tyrants in their own country - theValley of K. - the local people rise up and the tyrants have no other choice but to flee.My pupils’ comment in class was: “Imagination may change the world!”. That’s it: “Storytelling, building upintelligence, and Imagination indeed may change the world!”25th August 2011