Social distance, science and imagination – global issues

  • Opinion By Jan Londius (Stockholm / Rome)
  • Interpress service

The past affinity between storytellers and listeners has been forgotten, and the enchanting experience of listening to a good storyteller in a wonderful environment is something many children are currently deprived of. Even storytelling in the form of books and movies is becoming more and more rare, being replaced by video chats, podcasts, Twitter and Instagram. Admittedly, some video games offer a certain degree of action, fantasy, and storytelling, although most offer one-way communication, which unfortunately is characterized by unbridled commercialism, questionable role-modeling, crude violence, lewd conspiracy theories and a glamor of luxury and greed. Relying on electronic “entertainment” may be more mind-numbing than that, for example by urging its users to sit hour after hour trying to complete a meaningless puzzle, guiding a ball through a maze, or riding a virtual motorbike through artificial hills and valleys.

I came to think of this as I remembered the evenings spent in secluded places. Some communities found that they lacked electricity and within a circuit lit by a fire or a kerosene lamp, with darkness around and starry skies above, it was a pleasure to hear old men and women tell stories about their surroundings and their way of life. Such places may be perceived by an outsider as confined and desolate, away from the lights of a big city, crowds of strangers, stress, hustle and bustle. However, locals might feel surrounded by strange creatures, with domains of powerful spiritual forces. After days of hard work in fields and garden plots, or wandering through bushes and mountains in search of prey and food, families and friends gather on the balconies of ramshackle huts, or under a tree in the middle of a village, where stories are told about otherworldly inhabitants of mountains, forests, deserts and oceans.

The narrators convey the vastness of another world, though still present, which may sometimes manifest itself in what we used to call “reality”. Separate and gentle spirits rise from springs, caves, and streams to dance in the moonlight, or evil forces infiltrate lonely wanderers, whispering in their ears to lure them astray, or to kill and devour them, or to take them into graves and dwellings. The dead, realms of ghosts, monsters and demons.

Of course, as an educated and modern person, you do not believe in these stories, but … among believers, in worlds that despite earthly fears seem to be alive with supernatural creatures and unknown mysteries, it can be difficult in any case to remain unmoved. Older people tell us about their world and before they remember the wonderful tales they were once told, they might look around and say:

“Listen to the dog howling there in the dark. I tell you, that’s not a dog. Oh no, a human has turned into a dog, or maybe…Lup Jarrow, a werewolf. The butterfly you saw in your room last night, it wasn’t a butterfly…” It was your sweetheart who dreamed of you far away in another land, while her dream turned her thoughts into a butterfly. The fireflies you see There are no flies, they are the souls of dead ancestors. All around us; in the air, in the earth beneath us, in the springs and trees are living mysteries, beings of the night And our dreams. All around us are living beings that are generally unknown, and most of us cannot see, touch or understand them… at least not when we are awake. In our dreams, when our souls leave our minds behind, and when we visit the soul with an unknown world, we may see and experience the stranger, But we don’t understand it. What we think of as our world is but a small part of something else, something much bigger.”

Participating in such magical moments makes us feel alive. Even if it’s all just tradition and an illusion that we feel amazing, the world comes close. The worlds conjured by storytellers, myths, legends, and fairy tales fascinate and frighten us in an exciting way. A child who listens to stories about fantastic dimensions, and thus enters into it, realizes how vast the world is, how it includes fantasy and reality.

A computer programmer might call this density an “internet scientist,” an astronomer “the universe,” and a biologist a “biosphere.” These scholars are familiar with a small part of human existence and the laws of nature that govern it. Realizing this does not mean that you are a science denier. That you are not hated by flat earthers, anti-vaccination, coronavirus endorsers, artisans, chauvinists, misogynists, and other bigots who do not believe in climate change, empathy, love and solidarity but cling to baseless myths and conspiracy theories as if She was. “The plain truth.” People like that live in a bubble, a misleading environment that they want others to join in. They assume they know the truth, when in fact they defy logic.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the development of modern science in Europe was the process by which an idea was created that can be described as the realization that the world is governed by natural laws, and that forces can be perceptible, even comprehensible, and controllable. All phenomena are part of nature and therefore can be explained by natural causes. A conviction means that human cognitive, social, and moral phenomena are also part of an understandable world where human and social problems can find solutions if they are supported by a worldview that venerates science and reason and eschews the occult and the supernatural, while rejecting dogma and oppressive authorities.

But it was far from a unified movement. Many scholars defended the reality of supernatural phenomena, while skeptical humanists, inspired by ancient authors, criticized not only orthodox religion, magic and other forms of superstition, but also showed their skepticism towards the hard-line “experts” who simplified human existence for a set of “laws” natural”. Even if the religious pluralism of such men tarnished their reputations and deferred public acceptance of anti-witch views, change has occurred. This “enlightening” revolution in human concepts actually owes less to the scientific testing of magical concepts, than it owes to the growth of confidence in a stable world in which magic no longer has a place.

Since then, in almost every sphere of human existence, amazing progress has been made, primarily through scientific nature that has been used to solve problems, from engineering bridges and eradicating diseases, to extending life spans and establishing human rights. However, this does not necessarily mean that one-sided “scientific thinking and method” should dominate all human thinking and allow it to despise, deny and deny the right to invent things, dream, imagine, speak and create wonderful things. We must make room for music, art, and literature and allow ourselves and others to be entertained and stimulated through these human expressions. We need to provide depth and comfort for the short spans of our lives, our human existence.

These reflections emerged when, as a teacher, I experienced how art, music, philosophy, history, and comparative religion, as well as gymnastics and crafts, became limited or disappeared from the school curriculum. This was done in favor of more practical, purpose-oriented subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, business administration, and computer science. Of course, these subjects are essential to obtaining a solid education and attractive to the job market. However, humans do not live on bread alone, our brains are stimulated by inputs such as art, music, and entertainment. The humanities enrich human interaction and allow us to share in the dreams, visions, and fantasies of others. Let us not deprive our children of the pleasure of acquaintance with storytelling; With fairy tales, fantasies, myths and legends, preferably told in communion with others and in harmony with our surrounding world. Not just within electronically created worlds, but a real world made up of tangible, impressionable, and caring individuals.

The motivation and pleasure of engaging in storytelling has taught us to look at and perceive human existence from many angles, and thus develop into critical thinking for individuals who are able to avoid falling into the traps set by the Pied Pipers who summon across the narrow and cold World Wide Web. Hearts, prejudices and greed.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo