Don’t Just Warn About Stories; Tell Us How to Make Them Better

I’m intrigued that a TED Talk about stories that is nearly three years old is getting attention. If I had seen any buzz about Tyler Cowen’s presentation about the problems with stories when it was first posted, I would have written about it or certainly seen others write about it.

I first wrote about the speech earlier this month. I’ve included a question about it in the set of general questions I ask my Q&A participants, and Jim Signorelli and Doug Rice have weighed in with their responses.

Donald Miller (pictured) is the latest story guru to offer a rejoinder to Cowen.

In railing against stories, Miller notes, Cowen is “telling a story and he’s made himself a character in that story.”

Miller contends that by the time Cowen confesses to have told a story, it’s too late:

He’s already positioned story as suspect, the way a culture might present shovels as suspect if they’d been used in too many murders. I’d rather have him show us how to use a shovel than scare us about how we are going to be killed by them. What we need, then, is people who tell great stories with their lives, based in truth. We need people to live better stories so those around us can learn to live better stories themselves.

Instead of merely exhorting us, Miller asserts, Cowen could offer suggestions for improving our stories:

A better method would not be to attack stories (who would win that fight? An earth without Middle Earth is boring) but rather to warn us about making our stories too simplistic, and warning us that stories can be used to manipulate.

Why do you suppose this talk is getting so much attention now (I admit I manufactured some of the attention by asking Q&A subjects about it) — and why didn’t it get attention back when it was posted in 2009? Or did it, and I somehow missed it?