Storytelling: From Ancient Philosophers to Present Day Professsionals
What is the link between Pythagoras and modern day storytelling? If I were you, I ‘d be thinking, is this guy nuts? Well, until a few days ago I did not know there is a link between these distant bedfellows. So, where am I going with this?
There is no doubt that Pythagoras was and is still very famous for the Pythagoras Theorem. But did you also know that he was Empedocles’ teacher or mentor? But who is Empedocles? Aristotle once credited Empedocles as “the father of rhetoric.” I did not make that up. I am not that smart. You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out.
In The Elements of Persuasion, by Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman, the authors argue that Empedocles ‘s four elements of nature (fire, earth, water and air) are metaphorically similar to the elements of a good narrative or story. They say by understanding Empedocles elements, we can better appreciate modern narratives.
They base their argument on the fact that these elements are “ideotropic” that is capable of attracting our mind to an innner truth, in the same way plants are attracted to sun, as initially described by Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo holds the view that Empedocles elements are not only material nature, but also have psychological and thus, these elements are the carriers of our culture.
Based on this analogy, the authors make their case that Empedocles elements correlate to the elements of a compelling narrative (passion, hero, antagonist, awareness and transformation). What I draw from these authors is that if Empedocles are the carriers of nature, then, the elements of a narrative are the carriers of human culture because both are by implication ideotropic.
So what is the line up according to Maxwell and Dickman? It took me a while to get it. I hope you get sooner, and yes, I hope I did not confuse you.
Did you notice anything unusual in the line up? If you have n’t, then you were not paying enough attention. If you have, then you should find time and read Maxwell and Dickman or other books written by better minds from the ancient era.
Here is what you may have missed, there is a fifth element. It is “Space”. Though it was not stated by Empedocles, a generation later, Plato, his student did just that. Plato added the element of “Space” as the milieu in which all these elements exist. It is sometimes referred to as “Ether” which means, the field in which the other elements occur.
According to Maxwell and Dickman the element of “space” corresponds to the narrative element of “transformation”. It is what occurs or what changes when a story has been well told. Without transformation, there is perhaps, no basis for storytelling.