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Writing as a Teaching Tool

Updated on December 18, 2016
Stephen Austen profile image

S.P. Austen (1960- 2020) was an independent author writing on a diversity of subjects and genres. He passed away on June 30, 2020

Photo: WikiImages  William Shakespeare
Photo: WikiImages William Shakespeare | Source

How good writing can inspire others to become the best of themselves.

William Shakespeare

If anyone has ever watched a Shakespeare play, or better still, read a Shakespeare play, the discerning and sensitive reader will recognise that the plays were meant to be used as a teaching tool to inspire mankind.

Really? Yes. Do a little research online and find out more about this. I won't go into the Bacon-Shakespeare controversy too much, but many profound thinkers and researchers have ventured so much to say that Sir Francis Bacon was the true author of the Shakespeare plays and that he wrote them to inspire the minds of his audience. That controversy aside, the idea of writing as a teaching tool is a fascinating concept.

The reasoning is that if a play (or a book) or any other form of media such as film for example, has a 'message' in it, the audience or reader will subliminally receive that message even if he or she is the dumbest moron walking on the planet. Well, maybe there's no hope for them, but even some element of education might seep through. Didn't primitive man evolve? There is compelling ancestral evidence that much of human development came from story-telling around the camp fire when there was nothing else to do. So even if we still have some remnants of Neanderthals walking amongst us, these low-browed creatures will respond to a little enlightenment if they are exposed to it.

Advertising campaigns have worked hard pushing products or philosophies at the masses for centuries, and never more so since the dawn of moving film and television. Subliminal messages (or even overt ones that clearly state their purpose) have been used in countless ways from selling soap to cars to hamburgers.

People are sheep when it comes to learning. Some have coined the term 'sheeple' to refer to people who can be easily led and influenced. Yikes! That might actually be all of us, folks, in ways that we didn't even realise. Commercials on TV refer to the taste you crave etc, and people soon find themselves drawn to eat, drink or purchase something that they don't actually need or want.

Think of the propaganda that has been used by governments of various countries; think of the Nazi propaganda of the Master Race or the political philosophy of Mao Tse Tung or Stalin. Soon, the masses are raising their right arm and screaming 'hail' to this or to that.

If you tell people often enough that something is good or bad they will eventually believe it.

So, in writing, we can see that we have a tremendous opportunity, let alone responsibility to do something really worthwhile. Something really good, even inspiring or soul-enobling. As writers, we have a massive responsibility, nay, duty to not only write well, but to include something edifying in the content of a story or even in a non-fiction work.

We can still write entertainingly and hopefully excitingly, without necessarily making a story into a campaign for our favourite religion or political viewpoint; we can make it humanistic and put into the mouths of our characters something that will make the reader or the observer want to emulate that attitude.

Charles Dickens

I remember reading a line from Dickens, in David Copperfield if I recall correctly, where he was speaking autobiographically, and remarked that some people when suffering hardship in life became crueller and others, in similar circumstances became more compassionate. The basic premise of that statement stayed with me longer than the actual story did, because it struck a deep chord within me that made me want to be a better person. We all suffer adversity, but how will we react to life as a result of that adversity?

You are what you Think

When we read something, or watch something on TV etc, we are engaging with the object of our attention. In Eastern mysticism it is said very wisely, 'that which is gazed upon, you become.' Everything that we give our energy and attention to, especially what we allow into our brains on a daily basis, is the very foundation of what we become as human beings. It is literally 'food for thought.' Our reality is constantly being shaped by these outer impressions, subtly or overtly. Our very thoughts and desires change because of these outer impressions. They are moulded by them.

Jesus said that 'As a man thinks, so is he.' Buddha said that 'Desire is the cause of suffering.'

If we read or watch garbage, the brain becomes filled with garbage and before long that very accumulation of rubbish becomes a social problem; it is a disease of the mind which creates emotional and mental instability and leads to chaos. If you wonder at the state of the world you need look no further than what people are exposed to. This is obvious, but so often ignored. People are shaped by what they see, what they read, what they are told is true.

All Reading is an Education

Do people improve from reading a novel? Yes, I think so, if it has a message that inspires us to be better than we currently are. If a book or film touches you deeply, it is subliminally affecting you in a positive way that can actually touch the entire world. You will change for the better, because what you receive mentally and emotionally through watching or reading great works can shape your character even without you being consciously aware of it.

That which is gazed upon, you become. As a man thinks, so is he.

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© 2016 S P Austen


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