J.K. Rowling is the world’s most influential person

Psychologist Adam Grant wrote one of my favourite books “Give and Take”, a book which examines the merits and power of being someone who “gives more than they get.”

In this article, published in Tech Insider this week, he posits that children’s author JK Rowling has been incredibly influential in shaping the values of a whole generation of young people.

Here at Bear Skin, we say “Hear hear!!” The sentiment that good writing shapes empathy and broadens perspectives, in turn shaping behaviour is a Bear Skin mantra.

Please enjoy.

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J.K. Rowling is the world’s most influential person, says top psychologist — and the reasons why are stunningly convincing

by Chris Weller

If we define someone’s influence as how much they can shape people’s thoughts and goals, Adam Grant says J.K. Rowling is in a league of her own. Thanks to her “Harry Potter” books, millions of young readers have been trained in social and emotional skills that policymakers are only starting to get behind.

Grant, a professor at Wharton Business School and author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, recently bestowed the title of “most influential” on Rowling in a Q&A on the open forum site Parlio.

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Not counting the Bible,

“Harry Potter has reached more people than any other book series in history,”

Grant points out.

“Never mind the movies, merchandising, and other sources of contact.”

Worldwide, “Harry Potter” books have sold more than 450 million copies.

The next highest series is “Lord of the Rings,” by J.R.R. Tolkien, at a comparably paltry 150 million copies.

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But Rowling isn’t just the most influential because she moves a lot of paper, Grant argues. It’s how her books affect kids, both in the moment and for life.

“It affects them when they’re young and impressionable — and has inspired an entire generation to read, opening the door to many other avenues for education,”

he says.

Some adults certainly read novels as a form of escape, but great novels suck you in. Science backs it up.

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Psychological research suggests that, by stepping inside the mind of a main character, reading makes us more empathetic. We consider alternative points of view and see the rationale behind choices that we may never face firsthand.

More than that, “Harry Potter” has been found to be especially helpful in reducing kids’ latent biases: Perspective-taking, wrote researchers of a 2014 study, “emerged as the process allowing attitude improvement” toward immigrants, homosexuals, and refugees when people sided with Harry over Voldemort.

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The stories may take place in fantastical worlds, but its relatable themes get kids thinking positively about the Earth they inhabit.

“Ms. Rowling,”

Grant says, addressing the author,

“the world would be a better place if you kept writing ‘Harry Potter’ books.”

You can read the full article from Tech Insider here.

Krisis

The Greek word crisis /krisis/ means human or divine judgement, a decision, a sentence.

As part of narrative, the “crisis” is usually the turning point of the story, at which the tension reaches maximum point, the hero or characters are put through intense trial, until the “catharsis” , the purification, cleansing or resolution is found.

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The ancient world believed, something the eastern world still appreciates, that this world is built upon justice. 

Ancient beliefs such as Hinduism teach that our suffering is merited for past misdemeanors. Buddhism teaches that ego and attachment cause suffering and that is in fact, detachment which brings “catharsis” or cleansing and release.

In this way, story and narrative are built within an ancient understanding of the world and the consequences of justice, and injustice faced by the characters. For this reason, ancient stories, myths and legends, retold in comic books, science fiction and fantasy hold such power in our modern world. These stories provide a meta-narrative in a post-modern era which has done away with such notions.

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The popularity of medieval and ancient world narratives such as Vikings, Game of Thrones, Rome and other such sagas, though decried as violent, misogynistic, immoral, and licentious, simply illuminate the taste for a world ruled by justice, though harsh, somehow real and biting. These ancient worlds are populated by blood thirsty gods, vengeful warriors, power hungry despots, fates and powers.

It is within these worlds, because of their violence and darkness, that the voyeur can feel the bite of justice as characters meet their end. These worlds are Shakespearean and biblical in the darkness they portray. The world is wicked without much redemption.

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In our contemporary context, we speak of issues of “justice” such as issues of child slavery, human trafficking, the exploitation of women, racism and more. However, an ancient understanding of “justice” would indicate that suffering is the normal state of humanity by merit of our hubris and corruption.

To frame these issues as matter of “injustice” implies a high view of human value from which we have slipped, and justice would require the righting of wrongdoings.

But how is this possible in a world corrupted through and through?

Merely showing mercy does not deal with the “just” nature of the universe. We cannot “love” the universe into wholeness.

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This is where narrative helps. Epic narratives depict the “hero” as the one who experiences the crisis, the judgement, in place of the innocent victims. The hero achieves the “catharsis” or the cleansing, the expurgation and righting of wrong.

Those who would fight against “injustice” must understand their role, like the hero of narrative, is to undertake the trial in place of the innocent one, to suffer the death and judgement issued to them by a cosmos geared by “justice” and in doing so re-balance the world.

Philippians 2:5-8 explains the Christian truth:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

 

 

 

The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s 2011 film “The Tree of Life” is largely a reflection on the Book of Job. The film begins with this quotation:
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“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?… When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” ~ Job 38:4

 

In the face of suffering, such as the story of Job recounts, one is left but to question God,

Why?!

God’s response [above] seems enigmatic. But  a  meditation on our smallness in space and time can be definitive.

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The enormous hyperbole of time and space, when acknowledged, removes all pretensions of any other identity other than our identity in God. If not, we are cosmically nothing. Indeed, without God, our questions, our suffering mean nothing. Job, stripped of all identity, had a few choices. He could turn from God to ‘nature and cosmic solitude‘ or towards God to earn favour by ritual and rite. Instead, he chose a third path, he asked God personally for a legal arbitration. He asked for grace.
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So why does Malick in his film,  draw an association with the motif of “The Tree of Life“? It is Genesis 1-2, not the Book of Job, which tells us of the separation between humanity and God and the loss of the Tree of Life. The creation narrative tells of how humanity, by turning away from relationship with God, chose the way of nature, and so became subject to the created order and its perils. Humans become mortal.
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Forever, since then humanity has searched for the “Tree of Life,” the power source of eternal being. The story of Job connects to this narrative by posing the the temptation presented by Job’s friends to reach out for the Tree of Life.
“Repent”
they say,
“Pray! Pay penance and be restored.”
Earn favour, gain life.
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Job refuses his wife’s urging to “curse God and die”. He chooses the third path. He chooses to address God directly. The Book of Job then poses a few mysteries. Firstly, it examines how mysteriously, God’s gift to humanity is suffering. Suffering pulled Job from his relationships to his wealth, his health and even his loved ones. It cut through his ties and relationships to the natural world leaving him boldly facing God and asking for grace. Suffering reoriented him to his truest relationship.
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The second mystery,  is that Job looked past the wisdom of his friends and appealed personally to God for grace. He resisted the temptation to reach for the “Tree of Life” to find life, but in doing so, evade the person who gives life – God.
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The grace that Job looked to, the grace he could not see fully, was for God to stand on earth, a redeemer, and speak for humanity, to arbitrate for us, we who are unable to earn access to life eternal. What Job rejects is the way of nature or “nihilism” and the way of “wisdom” but turns instead, with a personal appeal to God. In the midst of Job’s suffering, he turns to face God and he asks for God to personally intervene. God honours his request, standing on the earth as a redeemer for a humanity adrift. This person-God, stands as a suffering servant, and is hung on a tree, the Tree of Life. It is only in this act of grace, that restores humanity to relationship with God, and to life eternal.
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