The first session at TEDx Johannesburg began with Iain Thomas, the author of ambiguous micro stories at I wrote this for you. Here’s the site tagline, which is great:
“I need you to understand something. I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it, doesn’t get it. They may think they get it, but they don’t. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. You were meant to read these words.” Apparently there is a whole ecosystem of micro-story writers, this is the first I’ve heard of it. I love the idea.
“We are a generation that consumes media in smaller and smaller chunks.” I think of Twitter and the effect it has on my own concentration / focus / reflection? It’s difficult to identify relevant data from an endless stream, focus on it, extract meaningful information and make use of that. Should I slow down? How? Why? Can I afford to?
Iain creates very short stories by leaving out the small details (e.g. age, gender, etc.) and having the reader fill in the gaps. “There’s no story I can tell you that’s more powerful than the one you tell yourself”.
“We are not the unique snowflakes we are told we are, we are all of us the same.” I love this sentence. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger, but at the same time I think that each of us is unique. But the aggregation of the whole “flattens” us out and makes the sum of the parts seem more uniform. I like the idea of simplicity (the group) through complexity (the individual).
“This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time” (from Fight club). Inspiring quote to motivate one to get on with it.
“I don’t care how many fish there are in the sea, I don’t want fish, I want you.” I came across a variation of this a few years ago (I forget where)…I don’t care how many fish there are in the sea, if I’m a mackerel and you’re a herring, it won’t help either of us.
Iain got me thinking about stories and the important role of stories in our lives. We all learned through stories when we were younger, and then for some reason, most of us stop telling them. Maybe it has something to do with the creativity that’s “educated” out of us (Sir Ken Robinson). I remember growing up fascinated with fables, myths and science fiction, yet most of what I read now is either academic or non-fiction. I just finished reading Randy Pausch’s “The last lecture“, based on his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon, where he also talks about the importance of stories in our lives.
I like the idea of using stories as vehicles that we can use to carry concepts and principles. Kind of like sneaking the idea in there, or learning without realising that you’re learning. I often tell my students that their patient documentation can be thought of as a story…the story of this patient and their condition/injury. Just like a story has a logical sequence and structure (beginning, middle and end), so too should an assessment have structure. What are the logical patterns we can use to best convey the story of this patient and our role as physiotherapists in that story?
For the past few months I’ve been trying to get my head around the idea of complexity through simplicity, and this concept of ambiguous micro-stories seems to resonate with that idea. It’s something that I worked hard on for my doctoral proposal, although I based it on a variation of one of Einstein’s quotes that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”. For me, Iain’s stories fall into this category of creating stories that can be incredibly complex, but only through incredible simplification.