This is the third post in a thread about “symbolic value”. That is the value we give our experiences. From a business perspective, predicting shifts in symbolic value is a key to optimizing investment. In terms of living, building symbolic value is a key to finding the good life.
We left off with an old, old idea. It is that the inner self actually craves connection to something bigger and more awesome than the self. From this perspective, attempts to “dominate” or “impose one’s will” are acts of frustration (like Citizen Kane) rather than diabolical cleverness. By way of contrast, connecting to larger stories provides a feeling of calm and certainty.
It is not my intention here to define which stories should inspire you. I am not evangelical. But I am curious what any such story looks like. How we can recognize what is great about them. Why bother? Well, look at it this way. If we know what we are looking for, we know it when that value is transposed into what we see and do and most important, what we create. In other words, we participate more effectively in value creation. We lead rich lives.
So what are these elements?
The first one is what I would call “an invitation to transform”. Like when Alice stepped into the looking glass and got an invitation to a totally different reality. Here is a fun image of what that might look like
The key here is great stories invite us to transform what we see and hear around us. We are freed from the mundane fixed quality of definition – that a chair is a chair is a chair, forever a chair. It is a chair because we make it so and it is no longer a chair if we stop believing in the idea of “chair”.
This is a distinctly human craving. And it is a craving only grows stronger as we appreciate how little of the universe we are capable directly experiencing through our senses. The idea is not new. Plato laid out this out in his allegorical cave story long ago. And its appeal is as strong as ever as we learn that the universe is (borrowing a phrase) not only stranger than we thought, but more strange than we can imagine.
Any examples from our lives? I don’t want to persuade you to take over any given story. But it is fun to see how some talk about invitations to transform. Here is an example. Fred Wilson spells out the invitation to transform that the internet offers in a recent post. He quotes from a Nick Denton interview in Playboy Magazine. And here is Nick’s key thought.
DENTON: The internet is it for this century, maybe the next one too. (emphasis added)
DENTON: … When you have an innovation as profound as the networking of sentient beings.… Those delusional futurists who talked about Gaia, the planetwide intelligence? They were spot-on. It’s totally happening, and everything else comes out of that.
We cannot see the effects of the internet on a day to day basis. But Nick argues that these effects are real and profound. They are so big that it may take a century or two to figure out how to use this new capacity. So as you go about your business today, look around you. What invitations do you see to transform?
And is that the only element? I think there are more. The second one is what I would call the “flush of beauty”. That is next!