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  1. #11
    Rats off to ya! Mort Belfry's Avatar
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    Which one of the following stories is more interesting:

    John was born to a loving family, he grew up into a healthy gentleman and after a life well spent he died happily.

    John was born to a family of tigers who mercilessly beat him with broken bottles and ironing cords every second of every day until he twelve, then he was castrated in a humiltating experience with a french door. He had soon grew to loathe himself and cut himself at every available oppurtunity and became a prostitute just to support his abusive husband's heroin addiction. One day it was all too much for and he jumped off a bridge onto an open sandwich maker. At his funeral everybody talked about how much they hated him.

    Pain and suffering also lends longevity to a narrative.
    Why do we always come here?

    I guess we'll never know.

    It's like a kind of torture,
    To have to watch this show.

  2. #12
    Senior Member sriv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    Great comments above, to try and hone down why and how this stuff is "needed" by us, and it sounds like there are a whole plethora of reasons.

    One message that keeps coming through is that we need mistery to make it interesting. But.. why? Why is it dull to hear about happy successes. Weird, isn't it.
    Because then people start feeling jealous and competitive instead of sympathy. Too much competition is not healthy and sympathy is a much more connective force. Would you want to live in a perfect, happy utopia?
    If perfect then ~emotion.
    Humans cannot be healthy without variety. Suffering is another form of learning. Shows different perspectives that people are not used to seeing. A miserable person would WANT to see happiness. There is always that quest for balance.
    Reyson: ...If you were to change your ways, I'm sure we could rebuild the relationship the two of us once shared.

    Naesala: Oh no, that I could never do. You see, humans are essential to the fulfillment of my ambitions.

    Reyson: You've changed, Naesala. If this is the path you've chosen, I've nothing left to say.

  3. #13
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    Also, it brings one back down to ground in that you are given an opportunity to laugh at the ways of life instead of fear them.
    Oh yes, safe danger. We aren't homo sapiens, we are pans narrans - the story telling ape. We learn by experiencing things in a narrative form (nursery rhymes, fables etc). So, they must contain misfortune to educate us, and we allow ourselves to experience difficult times in a safe "mind space" - we rehearse without experiencing.... so that's step one to my follow up point.

    Step two, if we need safe danger, we use humour to protect ourselves from the fear factor of the necessary misery. So, we make it funny to learn by watching and hearing how others hurt themselves or suffer.

  4. #14
    Rats off to ya! Mort Belfry's Avatar
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    Conflict is needed in any story so that it actually is a story. In classical comedy and tragedy it seems that it must go:

    Comedy: Introduction. Conflict. Happy Ending.
    Tragedy: Intorduction. Conflict. Unhappy Ending.

    To go from introduction to ending would mean there isn't a story and nothing has changed or happened which is uninteresting. There is only one time when confict isn't needed in stories and that's called pornography.
    Why do we always come here?

    I guess we'll never know.

    It's like a kind of torture,
    To have to watch this show.

  5. #15
    a white iris elfinchilde's Avatar
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    Possibly, because reading about happy people creates envy. While reading about unfortunate people creates sympathy/empathy.

    From a self-centric point of view, which makes a person feel better?

    There's also the dual issues of catharsis and voyeurism. What's inarticulate in oneself may be articulated by another--thereby resonance, which is where art finds its meaning---and voyeurism, which is the life one may secretly wish to have. A life against all odds, doesn't everyone who identifies with the underdog, wish to see that beaten person win?

    because then, it creates the most important thing for oneself: hope.

    It is on this that the American Dream is founded upon.
    You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
    They called me the hyacinth girl.
    Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
    Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
    Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
    Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
    Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

    --T.S Eliot, The Wasteland

  6. #16
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    Being alive means experiencing misfortune and tragedy. We also experience joy and fortune. But whilst we seldom need support for the good stuff, and tend to just enjoy it, we all need help getting through the bad stuff.

    When people encounter stories that involve tragedy and misfortune, it helps them feel less alone, and can also help them figure out how to handle it in their own lives, going by the experiences of the characters. The most successful stories are those that most closely mirror real human experience, otherwise people just don't relate to it. I believe in LOTR Tolkien says something similar - stories about super heroes who are larger than life and deal with things effortlessly are never as inspiring as those about ordinary people, placed by the ruthless caprices of chance in extraordinary and challenging circumstances, who rise to the challenges and become more by doing so than they were before.

    Stories are a part of coping with the human condition. Without tragedy in them, they just divert us momentarily but leave little to think about or dwell on afterwards. All the greatest and most eduring myths, legends and story traditions and cycles bear this out: they have to contain all elements of human experience in order to be enduring, to continue to appeal and to continue to be relevant.

    That's why people can read the Arthurian legends today and feel just as close to the characters as though they weren't living in a society over a thousand years gone and alien to us. Whilst we might not understand perfectly the characters' motivations or the society in which they live, when they experience tragedy and joy, love and anger, and that stuff, we relate to it, we understand that, and so 'bond' with the characters.

    "Sickeningly nice" stories about perfect people with perfect lives don't appeal because there's nothing real about them. They don't inspire people to cope with the real challenges in their real lives, they just leave one feeling inadequate and depressed that one's life doesn't mirror the idyll they portray.

    edit - the most successful stories are the ones where people experience lots of difficulty, but survive. Because that's something universal to most people: from time to time we ask ourselves if we can really carry on; we feel tired of it all and like giving up, and we wonder if we can really survive. Stories like that can give us hope and keep us going.
    Ils se d�merdent, les mecs: trop bon, trop con..................................MY BLOG!

    "When it all comes down to dust
    I will kill you if I must
    I will help you if I can" - Leonard Cohen

  7. #17
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Great thoughts...

    My two cents:

    Much like what elfie said... people are inherently egotistic. We live to compare ourselves to others... a little misfortune to others does wonders to affirm our superiority. Helping behavior in essence puts us above the individual...

  8. #18
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    I don't see it that way nightning. If I help someone I don't see myself as being 'above' them, or them needing me but not the other way around.

    Medieval society in Europe valued lepers and paupers as virtually sacred as it was only by their existence that people were enabled to perform acts of charity and empathy, through which alone one could become self-actualized. The rich man needed the leper just as much, if not more than the leper needed the rich man.

    Accepting help from someone implies a certain level of trust. Many people don't like asking for or accepting help, whilst most people feel gratification from giving it.

    If somebody allows me to help them I don't see my role as a condescending, superior-to-them one. We're every inch equals. Without people allowing themselves to be helped and helping others, we all live self-absorbed lives of little self-awareness, and don't reach actualization as the best we can be. It's a great honour to be given the trust that's implied in a person showing their vulnerability to me. There's just as much humility involved, ideally, in both giving and receiving help, and just as much dignity. Being the giver does not make one superior - in fact it's the easiest part to play, for a lot of people who would happily give someone a dollar, but would rather die than ask for a dollar in charity.

    Whilst it's possible to take the cynical position of saying people like to 'get off' on others' misfortunes to make themlseves feel superior, I think underneath the process that's going on - or that the 'voyeur' is hoping or trying to cause to go on - is more like what I said above.
    Ils se d�merdent, les mecs: trop bon, trop con..................................MY BLOG!

    "When it all comes down to dust
    I will kill you if I must
    I will help you if I can" - Leonard Cohen

  9. #19
    almost half a doctor phoenix13's Avatar
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    One word: catharsis.

    Edit: Ha, like I could just leave it at that...

    I really agree and relate to Substitute's post (two posts back). Particularly: "When people encounter stories that involve tragedy and misfortune, it helps them feel less alone, and can also help them figure out how to handle it in their own lives, going by the experiences of the characters."

    Hearing of other people's misfortunes is therapeutic for that reason, along with the catharsis. and yes, some people cling to others' misfortunes to pull themselves up, but that's not the whole picture, of course.

    One last thought: Compassion is one of the highest modes of human existence. It makes you feel like a good person, and benefits the other person (if they know of it) at the same time. Hearing others' misfortune arouses compassion in many people. Note: Compassion does NOT equal pity.
    Last edited by phoenix13; 05-16-2008 at 12:37 PM. Reason: too short...

  10. #20
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    I can't remember the last time someone phoned me or emailed me to tell me some genuinely good news. I think people focus on the negative so much that it dilutes the positive to the point of barely being recognizable. I'm a damn hippie though so I am biased.

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