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In Praise of Prose

In Praise of Prose

There has never been a more reductionist culture than ours. If someone discovers that tomatoes are good for you, the first thing that happens is that someone spends a quarter billion dollars trying to “isolate” the magic stuff in tomatoes so they can put it in capsules. Why? Tomatoes are pretty, voluptuous things. They taste really good. They are clever “fruits–that-are-not-too-sweet” and they come in hundreds of gorgeous varieties. Yet, we still reach for the capsules. Something that the “nutriceutical” industry hasn’t been able to grasp well is that most of the time, the extract doesn’t even work. The magic is in the whole food.

This tendency to reduce has infected the way we interact. It probably stems from another pervasive issue—the perception of time-poverty. Everybody ALWAYS thinks they “don’t have time”. Here’s the news—there is still as much time as there always was. Einstein demonstrated that. You do IN FACT have all the time there is. Now, if you have managed to fill it all up with busyness, it means you have to make trades. There is no more insidious by-product of this combination of reductionist thinking and unskillful time management than the addiction to bullet-point thinking.

Would you rather read this:

  • Small creatures
  • Magical realism
  • Imaginary place
  • Good VS Evil
  • Classic “quest” archetype

Or would you rather read “The Lord of The Rings”? ONE of them is lush, immersive, evocative, emotional and full of detail that takes you to a new world. The other is…pretty useless.

Storytelling can be done in many ways. Hula and Ballet tell tales with body movement and music, paintings do it with color, line and texture, songs use rhyme, rhythm and melody and writers (and their root ancestors- oral tellers) use WORDS. I am only fluent in English (and that’s only if you don’t count spelling and the fact that I’ll die not caring about the difference between a hyphen and an m-dash). In English, we use sentences and paragraphs-engineered constellations of words to make images and “movies in the mind”. Stories unleash the native creativity in every human brain, they invite you inside, they make you part of the action and they allow us to co-create with our audiences. The best bullet points in the world can’t do that.

So, the next time you’re tempted to say “just give me the executive summary”, think again. Take the five minutes, the 15 minutes, take the 30 minutes and allow yourself to read or hear the story. If your board chair says “just give me the bullets”, have the courage to say “Mam/Sir, let me know when I can have a half hour of your time, I really want you to understand the story”. The real solution you’re after is in the rich tale, just like the real nutrition is in the whole, delicious tomato.

Bob Allen
A nationally recognized speaker, Bob has presented to various groups that include the U.S. Air Force, Association of Travel Marketing Executives, Allied Travel Organization, National Telecommunications Conference to name a few.