Here, in another of my Toastmasters speeches, I talk about the importance of fiction. “The Power of Stories” is a subject that’s dear to me, in this time when people only read how-to. Fiction makes us more empathetic, smarter, and creative. It makes us better people …
Albert Einstein was asked how to make children intelligent. He replied, “Read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
By intelligent, he meant beyond good grades and paychecks. He spoke of our becoming human beings, not merely human doings.
Imagine that in this video, my white sweater hood is red, that covering my head with it transforms me…
That an ordinary plastic bag is a wicker basket filled with fresh baked cinnamon rolls, and that when I hold my fingers to my lips, I’m licking the stickiness of honey. Under my feet, a forest of spicy pine needles and earthy wetness crunches to mingle with the sweet scents.
Imagine that beyond trees ahead, sound the yips of what might be new puppies that she’s adopted. The nearer we get, however, the more our skin tingles with panic.
Okay — a different scenario — when I rip paper into strips and place them before us on a pretend version of an oak table in an imaginary one-room log cabin, the scraps represent three sizes of bowls of porridge. When I toss paperclips about, they double as tufts of greasy brown fluff. The chairs we sit on are three varying sizes of them chairs, one broken to bits.
When we shut our eyes, warm steam rises from the bowls. We inhale the delicious scents of melted butter and hot maple syrup. Cold air rushes about our ears from an open door to the outside. We look around and discover that the prior inhabitants left in a rush.
Okay — now scratch both stories, and we’re back to reality.
Was either tale familiar to you? When you were quite young, did you hear, read, or tell the stories of “Little Red Riding Hood,” and of “The Three Bears”?
Imagining is a muscle — as essential to flex, deepen, and expand as it is to eat well, exercise, and think positively. Fiction helps us become better in every way.
If there exist cultures that don’t value the power of stories, I’m not aware of them. Most people I know barely read, and when they do, its non-fiction — spiritual, how-to, self-help, work facts, or textbooks. They say they don’t have time for novels or shorter stories.
If people understood the value of fiction, they would make time for it. As a former journalist, I know facts are important. As a reader and a novelist, I also know the unparalleled power of fiction. Facts help us become productive. Fiction helps us make sense of life. Fine literary fiction transports us into imaginary shoes, times, and places. We become more human. We take the time to value fun.
The best stories, it has been said, are those that make us cry as well as laugh.
Do you allow yourself time to read fiction?