I have begun listening to a book by Allain De Botton called The Consolations of Philosophy and I’m enjoying it very much. I have already read his more recent book, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, which I learned about from an interview he did for the CBC podcast, Spark. While Pleasures and Sorrows has it’s good points, I am enjoying this book much more. It has a smooth, easy going style which has allowed me to to drift off on divergent thoughts and then pulling me back into the stories before I stray too far.
In the book, Allain is telling stories about philosophy by discussing the philosophers and their communities as common, everyday people. That’s a novel experience for me. Nothing dusty or tired here. So far he’s reintroduced me Socrates, Epicurus and Seneca through dozen of illuminating yet simple stories about their lives, their methods and their vision.
I’m not going to give you any examples, I would have to stop writing this and think about it and then I’ll never get this posted. You’ll have to find the book for yourself.
What prompted me to write though is that all of the stories are about the familiar foibles of human nature and the simple , but counterintuitive solutions these philosophers present. There’s nothing new, and yet the simple clarity with which he told them and the personal connection he created between me and them really surprised me.
It made me realize that the power of a story doesn’t lie in how novel or surprising it is, but how well it resonates with the audience. A simple story is probably better than most because there’s already a built in familiarity with it.
By the way, I’m not talking about the types of stories that are constantly being repackaged in film and TV that lack imagination and rely solely on their franchise or brand. You need to put in a little more effort than that, put good spin on it and find a way for to make story part of the lives we all know and live.
Whatever story project you’re approaching, whether it’s in audio or video or some other media, you could do a lot worse than dusting off an old favorite and using it to teach some familiar lessons to a new generation.