The value of stories

I wrote the first draft for this several years ago when Malmö University announced cutdowns that would affect their creative writing courses. Then the text sank into the bog of procrastination, something that happened much too often back then. Before I was finished the course had already been saved with the help of many other writers not quite so vulnerable to the allure of digital entertainment.

I stumbled over it in my archives and decided to give it some polish. It is my hope that I can redeem myself a little bit by publishing it now. Perhaps it can help make a difference somewhere else.

For as long as we humans have been able to express ourselves we have created stories. Paintings on cave walls tell the stories of people that turned to dust tens of thousands of years ago. The stories have been passed on, told and re-told, giving them a life beyond any single individual or group.

Stories, factual or fictional, gave the early humans a chance to escape from long days of the hard labour of survival. And by seeing the world through the eyes of others, they were taught both empathy and how to question the world they lived in. The stories created an imagined place that allowed them to learn from those who had come before them. I believe that the ability to transfer knowledge between generations and to keep building on that foundation has been one of the key factors of the intellectual evolution of our species.

Today the art of the story has also evolved and become an integral part of our society. So integral, in fact, that some fail to recognise its importance. Through literature, film, television, theatre, comics, music, art, and interactive games we are invited to see things in a different light. We are provoked to challenge what we know about the world and what we believe in. Through the telling of all these stories, humanity continues to evolve.

Yet whenever a budget is cut, creative arts are often considered superfluous or unimportant. The irony is that anyone who ever signed their name on a piece of paper that cut funding for creative education likely went home that day and consumed products of creativity.

The stories that the creative arts give us are just as fundamental to our society as is infrastructure, scientific progress, and social connection. And contrary to what many believe, the creators of these stories do not educate themselves in a vacuum.


Magnus Hedén

What do you think?