SciFridays: Stories–The Bridges To Real World Experiences

“That upon which we focus our attention is what we manifest in the third dimension…

I stumbled upon this blog post over at The Struggling Writer and was so intrigued by the video that I had to share. This is an engaging keynote speech by Levar Burton that explores the idea that stories are bridges to real world experiences; that imagination is the key to the unlocking of experience.

He shares his deep love with science fiction literature, a genre that dares to ask “What if?” Science fiction literature invites us and engages us in imagining a world that we ourselves would like to see, to inhabit, to explore.

He uses his own life as an example. As a child, he read a lot of science fiction books, but it was rare for him to see people like him in those pages, any heroes of color. Of course there were exceptions, but it was not the norm, especially in the ’60s.

Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, then, was hugely influential to him, and became one of his greatest life changing moments. Because what Gene’s vision said was:

“by the virtue of Nichelle Nichols sitting on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, there was going to be a place for me in that imagined future.”

(Considering his role as Lt. Geordi LaForge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, this reality manifested for him in more ways than one.)

…the stories that we tell each other inform us of who we are, why we’re here and where we’re going.”

He also goes on to say that he likes to think that there was a child back in those days who saw Captain Kirk speak into a handheld device to communicate to his team, and eventually created one of the most ubiquitously used device in our society–the cellular phone. (Now, if that same geek can please develop a teleportation device, I would truly be grateful.)

My favorite moment is around minute 2:50, where he talks about the link between that which we imagine and that which we create. He posits:

“The stories that we tell each other and have told each other throughout the history of development of civilization are integrally important, inextricably linked with how we continue to invent the world in which we live.”

“Human beings are manifesting machines. We are that child watching episodes of Star Trek, seeing those images, using our imaginations, coming up with a piece of technology that actually serves humanity going forward. Imaginations are our continuing link into ourselves in order to make contact with ourselves that we might share the beauty of ourselves through culture with the rest of the world.”

I enjoyed that our perspectives on science fiction literature align. I mentioned in a previous post, SciFridays: The Green Float Concept that science fiction literature is an ally to innovation because it asks “What if” and lends itself to “Why not?” 

I feel the need to quote Einstein again, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

What are your thoughts? Have you had an encounter with the written word that resonated with you as strongly?

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2 thoughts on “SciFridays: Stories–The Bridges To Real World Experiences

  1. strugglingwriter says:

    Nichelle Nichols was on astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast, Star Talk Radio. She told the story about how early in filming she was going to quit Star Trek. However, she got a call from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and he told her how he watched Star Trek with his family and how important it was for her to be on that show. Of course, she didn’t quit and the rest is history.

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