Juxtaposition & Surprise

At this rate, I could blog as many words on The Origin Of Stories as Brian Boyd writes.

“Attention” is as important as anything in communication and social behaviours, so not surprisingly we are well attuned to movement, particularly unexpected movement in life events, especially faces, or courses of events in any kind of narrative. So much of Boyd’s story is about play as art and art as play, very specifically their value to human evolution, and fairly obviously attention is part of play and art. Recognizing the value of the abnormal is not just a part of creativity, but also a part of understanding the normal. That doesn’t do justice to the first half of the book, which I have just completed, but hey. So what about the art of fiction, narrative at play ?

The last two chapters of Book 1 are Ch12 Fiction : Inventing Events and Ch13 Fiction as [Evolutionary] Adaptation. Ch12 ends with …

Narrative is always strategic, for both teller and listener, in ways that can range from the callously selfish to the generously prosocial. Because natural selection occurs at multiple levels, it can assist individuals or groups at different levels in their competition with other individuals or groups. But narrative especially helps coordinate groups, by informing their members of one another’s actions. It spreads prosocial values, the likeliest to appeal to both tellers and listeners. It develops our capacity to see from different perspectives, and this capacity in turn both arises from and aids the evolution of cooperation and the growth of human flexibility.

But maximum flexibility, in humans as in others, depends on play.

Wow. A very strong message on memes “likeliest to appeal” as well as the playful evolution of cooperation. Quite early in Ch13 after descriptions of child-invented play narratives, we find this solitary reference to Dawkins …

Thought experiments, Dawkins observes, “are not meant to be realistic. They are supposed to clarify our thinking about reality.”

The immediately following sentences are these …

Thought experiments of fiction may opt for realism, like Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan, or against it, like Aesop’s animal fables. We do not need to be a Samaritan or to travel from Jerusalem to Jericho, or to encounter a wayfarer robbed by the roadside to learn from the example ….

Irony at play I hope. Many a true word.

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