Storytelling and the Human Condition
Enjoy my television series for The Teaching Company and Wondrium that launches TODAY!
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to learn.
For every birthday, Christmas, and sometimes just for no reason at all, she would excitedly receive gifts of Teaching Company courses on DVD and VHS (yes, VHS!) from her father, a voracious learner in his own right.
Greek mythology, American history, astrophysics—you name it!—she devoured them all, and more.
This content was the backbone of her education. It was the unofficial education that complimented—and enhanced—this young girl’s formal schooling.
It augmented the intellectual omnivorous-ness that defined the home life in which her parents raised her and her two younger brothers. It nurtured the curiosity—a fundamental wonderment about the world around and others—that her parents modeled and which brought her great personal joy.
In many ways, this extra-curricular content was her true education. It was self-driven, and born of an organic interest and passion for learning, the recipe for an education that lasts a lifetime.
The little girl from this story is me.
Storytelling and the Human Condition is live TODAY
Today, I’m thrilled to bring my series for Wondrium, called Storytelling and the Human Condition, to the world. This course is a globe-spanning, time-jumping, media-traversing tour of the human narrative tradition that helps us understand who we are and our place in the world.
There are many reasons behind my excitement for this launch, and I’m eager to share a few of them with you.
First, as previously shared, I was raised on Teaching Company content. The aforementioned DVDs, guidebooks, and VHSs can be found on bookshelves and coffee tables and scattered throughout their home—like old trusty friends waiting to be picked up where we last left off.
The Teaching Company was a central part of my own learning journey—and continues to be today—which is why it was an honor to be invited to create a series for them.
Second, in creating this course, I drew upon a lifetime’s worth of thinking, reflecting, and learning—and the lifetime’s work of many wise people who have come before me—about the stuff of personhood, the good life, and human flourishing.
I yearned for the series to truly represent the human condition, which meant branching out beyond the stories and ideas on which I was raised, and exploring new intellectual and cultural territory. Creating this course invited me to remedy knowledge gaps. We’re all captive to the educations we were given growing up, but the great thing about being a lifelong learner is that we needn’t be so-captive any longer. We are free to follow our interests and passions wherever they lead.
Dr. Johnson said it best: “For general improvement, a man should read whatever his immediate inclination prompts him to… what we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression.”
Third, the thesis of the course is that the human condition is defined by, as the 16th century French polymath Blaise Pascal once said, the greatness and wretchedness of man. We are capable of incredible altruism, benevolence and ingenuity—but also capable of unconscionably monstrous behavior and atrocity toward ourselves, our fellow man, and the rest of the world around us.
We live in an era of strange perfectionism. It often feels as if we are punished for making mistakes or for wrong thinking. And yet, the intellectual life of learning requires having the courage to try an idea out, the humility to realize its shortcomings, and the fortitude to try again.
Failure is part and parcel with the human condition—and also lifelong learning.
To expect perfection is a recipe for disappointment, but it also unduly essentializes our personhood.
“To err is human,” as 18th century poet Alexander Pope once wrote. He continued: “To forgive is divine.”
This duality of greatness and wretchedness in our nature as human beings means that there is duality to our stories. The power of stories can be harnessed and used for good or for ill.
It’s up to us to choose whether the stories we tell perpetuate the best or the worst in our nature. My hope is that you’ll choose to join me through this course and learn alongside me how we can each harness the life-changing power of storytelling to help us better understand our place in the world and lead richer, more meaningful, and more deeply connected lives.
Storytelling and the Human Condition launches today, and I invite you to enjoy the entire course for FREE right now!
You can claim a free month of Wondrium at the link above and begin enjoying the series right away.
The series explores the breadth of the human experience from beginning to end. It starts with origin stories, then moving onto suffering, pride, love and sex, character formation, materialism and power, death and the afterlife, and ultimately human freedom.
As you make your way through the course, feel free to write to me directly with your questions, comments, and reflections. Most importantly, I’d love to hear how this course helps you create and refine your own story.
I hope this series causes you to critically reflect on the stories that you currently tell about yourself and the world around you now, and also encourages you to craft new, more noble stories that help you become the best version of yourself, and the person you aspire to be.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to exploring alongside you the tragedy, beauty, and universality of the human condition.
Your partner and friend in lifelong learning,
In the news
The Storytelling Animal a reflection on the themes of the series that I wrote for Law & Liberty
Classics, storytelling, and civility on Donald Robertson’s Philosophy as a Way of Life podcast.
Why You Should Think Twice Before Policing Someone's Table Manners, an profile of my book on civility for Huffington Post
Take a look at this review in The New Criterion of my friend Spencer Klaven’s new book, How to Save the West.
This young lady exudes the charm and wit necessary to restore classical literature and philosophy to its needed place in our technology-driven world. Give her a chance.
This is a great post. Storytelling is also crucial for ethics (you get at this a bit in today's post on Viktor Frankl). One way to think of ethics is that it deals with the narrative of our lives: where we've come from, who we are, and where we are going. It is not a coincidence that "character" is a term from both ethics and literary analysis. You could also say ethics deals with the stories we tell ourselves about who we are-- is it a story that helps us to grow and develop, or is it a story that keeps us stuck in our bad habits and keeps us from growing?
On another note, I've also started seeing ads on YouTube about services to help you use storytelling to improve business presentations. I don't think the point is using an anecdote in your presentation, but rather framing the presentation itself as a narrative, for example portraying the company as the "hero" that has to battle against impossible odds to achieve the goal, etc. I think there's a lot of truth in that way to frame a presentation.