Monday, June 1, 2009
When Daniel Pink suggests in his book (“A Whole New Mind – why right-brainers will rule the future”) that the left-brain approach to a world in transition is old school, he got my attention. All my life, I’ve felt something like a misfit. And now that I’m approaching the autumn of my life, Pink says I’m cutting edge.
Too bad I wasn’t born a few years later.
My left-brain friends call it fuzzy logic, imprecision, and muddy thinking. Pink says otherwise: it’s all that remains, he asserts, now that all those task-oriented jobs have been outsourced to the other side of the globe. If we think we’re going to make a fortune putting spreadsheets together or creating databases, Pink warns we’re in for a rude awakening.
In preparing us for the world to come, he identifies six “senses” (he calls them) that need our attention: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. (Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, he admits it in chapter 4 – he’s a Democrat. Now that I look at his list, it does rather sound like the criteria the President employed when he searched out a new candidate for the Supreme Court.) But as I write, I’m plowing through the chapter on “Story” and, well, he’s singing my song.
He’s got some salient quotes in this chapter – like E. M. Forster (who wrote Howard’s End) who put it this way:A fact is – The Queen died and the King died. A story is – The queen died and the King died of a broken heart.
So story goes beyond a recitation of the facts. It goes to the heart. Pink also quotes Don Norman who wrote a book called Things That Make Us Smart:
“Stories have the felicitous capacity of capturing exactly those elements that formal decision methods leave out. Logic tries to generalize, to strip the decision making from the specific context, to remove it from subjective emotions. Stories capture the context, capture the emotions… Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context and emotion.”
So I write stories. I’m doing a lot of that of these days. It has peaked my interest in story-telling, and those who do it well, like those two business partners Disney and Pixar who just released the new animated feature, Up, for example.
I wish I could write titles like my old boss, Chuck Swindoll. He’s the master (Hand Me Another Brick, my personal favorite. How does he do that?) But titles aren’t the main thing. It’s what happens when you read. That’s what really counts. Disney’s new movie will not draw audiences because of its title (Up… that’s it?) It’s the story you’ll tell your friends about. It’ll get you. It got me.
The first four minutes is the hook. When shy Carl meets the precocious Ellie, she’s on her way to attack a world of mystery and adventure. Her keen eyes and laughter draw the boy in and you understand why he decides there is only one way he wants to spend the rest of his life, and it’s with this firecracker of a lady. She acknowledges his interest with a Grape Soda cap badge, and fastens it to his chest with a safety pin. In four minutes, we walk through their marriage, their first house, the news that there will be no children and the building of a dream house with a painting on the mantel of their real destination – Paradise Falls – in South America. It’s the dream that energized their life until all too soon, Ellie falls ill, and dies.
The king of the house sits in the rocker of the house that love built with a photo of Ellie, the painting of Paradise Falls and a faded book of adventure, filled with memories and a plan that never came to be and one more thing – a broken heart.
Enter Russell, the almost Eagle Scout. A boy with big aspirations, and no dad.
That’s all I’m going to tell you.
Be prepared to be touched by this animated adventure. It will teach you about life and love and the power of story.
How do those PIXAR guys do that, anyway?
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009