On TV last week there were two programmes set in hospitals and focusing on brain tumours: real doctors performing a live operation and the final episodes of ER. One was considerably more engaging than the other. Surprisingly it was the fictional account of the death of a favourite character, Mark Greene, that caused me to sniffle not the real life operation. So which was more true?

The shortest distance between a human being and the Truth is a story.  Wherever a story comes from, whether it is a comforting myth, a real life event or a family memory, it is the retelling that helps us make connections. The ‘once upon a time’ comes to stand for some resurgent truth. This is is so with all the incidents of everyday life: the live demonstration in a hospital, the endearing or infuriating game of a toddler, the misunderstanding at work. We think in metaphors and we learn through stories.  

One lesson we can learn from pre-industrial peoples is the power of storytelling. I am struck by how important storytelling is among tribal peoples; it forms the basis of their educational systems. The Celtic peoples, for example, insisted that only the poets could be teachers. Why? I think it is because knowledge that is not passed through the heart is dangerous: it may lack wisdom; it may be a power trip; it may squelch life out of the learners. What if our educational systems were to insist that teachers be poets and storytellers and artists? What transformations would follow?   (Mathew Fox)

Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They imprint a picture on our minds. Above all, they help us understand. All good communcators are storytellers. All deep learning comes from grasping complex notions and concepts through the creation of stories about the information encountered.

Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.   (Salman Rushdie)