Monday, January 30, 2012

How story defines the self

I recently heard a re-broadcast series of radio-articles from NPR's Radio Lab that explored the question of what makes us ourselves. Not just what makes us human, but what makes us have the personalities that we do and, essentially, how we understand our own personal histories and use those histories to create identity.

But what struck me as the most memorable moment of the show -- and the whole thing was fascinating to me as a writer and creator of fictional people, and I think most writers would agree with me that the discussion is fascinating in a philosophical sort of way -- was when they boiled down what creates the "self":
The "self" is the ability to experience, then abstract those experiences into story.
They were talking mainly about the ability to tell people stories about your day, and dig up your war stories to rehash around the fire. But they also touched on the ability to fictionalize. And to imagine that which we've never seen. No one's every seen a man with wings, but we are able to abstract the experience of man and the experience of bird and then imagine an angel.

I think these radio articles are fascinating for any writer and a must-hear for fantasy writers out there.

Highly Recommended