Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Punching holes in the walls that surround us

I recently watched a talk by novelist Elif Shafak on TEDGlobal 2010. She talked about her background growing up in a diplomatic life, about the expectation critics have that her books reflect Turkish issues, even when she's writing novels in English set in Boston.

She described the circles we build around ourselves, the walls we use to enclose our groups of friends who tend to live lives so similar to our own. How associating with others like ourselves can blind us to the way other people live, and the stories that they have from their own point-of-view.
One way of transcending these cultural ghettos is through the art of storytelling. Stories cannot demolish frontiers, but they can punch holes in our mental walls and through those holes we can get a glimpse of the other and sometimes even like what we see.

This is one reason why my bookshelf, Google Reader, and Twitter friends are so diverse (at least I think so, hope so). I love seeing the world thru different eyes, getting a perspective on lives so different from my pretty sheltered Western NY existence. Being obsessed with stories and language as I am, it's not just about the subject material, but how the stories are told - the language people use, the tone and meter of their prose. For more on the benefits of following a diverse Twitter crowd, see Twitter Strangers on The Frontal Cortex.

Now, Shafak is adamant that her work is "JUST A STORY" and doesn't have any underlying meaning other than what the story intends to say - no hidden messages. I don't think that holds true across all stories.

Explore, open your eyes, punch holes in your walls - see what life can be like beyond the circle of those just like you. And let me know what you find.

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