Ep 54 - Role of fiction in building empathy

Ep 54 - Role of fiction in building empathy

Publish Date
May 7, 2020
Season Six
Show Notes

Melis Senova and Cyndi Dawes are back to share their pondering about whether fiction is a great gateway to building your empathy muscles. Cyndi’s favourite topic, Melis is not sure. There is some exploration about the potential impact of lock down on kids and whether the adventurer spirit will be alive and well post doing everything electronically, while at home. And of course, there is the note swapping about what they are reading, watching and listening to, trying hard to not make it all about Brene Brown. Melis ‘read' Untamed, mentioned last week so she talks about that, Cyndi talks about interesting things she’s heard on the radio. Some links Does Reading make you a better person? https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/07/22/does-reading-fiction-make-you-a-better-person/ Brene Brown https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-on-anxiety-calm-over-under-functioning/ Nothing to see here by Kevin Wilson. Read this review https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/29/books/review/nothing-to-see-here-kevin-wilson.html Then read the book https://www.amazon.com.au/Nothing-See-Here-Kevin-Wilson/dp/0062913468


Melis Senova 0:07 Hello, everyone, welcome to the huddle Show. I'm Melis Senova. And I have Cyndi Dawes here with me. Hi, Cyndi. Hi. We're gonna talk about a whole bunch of stuff, hopefully that you will find interesting. And first off, we usually start with things that we've been observing. Yeah. So I think last week, we talked about things we observed in ourselves and in others.


Cyndi Dawes 0:29 I'm going to do the same this week. So I've noticed something really interesting. I have this dinner with friends every week, which is much more regular than we used to pre isolation. And for six weeks or so we've just been riffing and chatting and having fun and having drinks. And there's something now about having done this for so long, that we're bringing structure into our conversation as a group of friends, which feels really bizarre to me. So we

Last week, we had a little set of cards created by the school of life. And I was the editor of that, that have cards, and would fairly randomly choose questions, and we all had to answer questions to support our conversation now it's so regular, and none of us have any news. Oh my god. And it's so true. Yeah, because nothing's happening. Yeah, it goes anywhere. Yeah, nobody does anything. So I found that fascinating. And then I spoke to some other friends. And I've been seeing it a bit on social media, that this increasing structure in social contact is increasing. Well, one of the things that I've also noticed is that people in online games or board games or whatever, are also providing that structure. You know, we're catching up online, and we're going to play a game together, which is like a little bit of the structure that you're talking about. Mm hmm. So I noticed that and I found that I found that quite ingenious actually, because we wanted to stay connected, but we also didn't want to just fall down the mire hole have nothing to talk about. And, you know...

Melis Senova 2:09 so how did you feel to have these, this scaffolding around a social interaction?

Cyndi Dawes 2:16 Look, it felt a bit awkward and everyone was a bit like, oh, cuz I was threatening. I'd be like, you know if we have nothing to talk about, I'm getting out of the cards and everyone's like, Oh, I don't get out. And then I got out the cards.

And it was actually... I really enjoyed it. People enjoyed it, and people asked for it next week, although we have a different scaffolding this week. Okay. And it was kind of nice. The people I have known for a very, very long time some of these people I have known for years actually, I met them when I was very young. And two or three, but we've done exactly that to us. Right. And we've never had these kind of conversations. So we talked about things like where did you choose to authority come from? Well, we'll start talking about childhood. Hopefully, that was...

Melis Senova 3:00 The opener. "Hi, everyone. Good to see you all."

Cyndi Dawes 3:03 You know, we've done a bit of rappore building prior, but we have known each other a long time. So yeah, where did our attitudes from authority come from? And there's such a divide. Really? Did you learn something new? Before you learn further? Yeah, I kind of suspected again, well, they things but um, and we talked about what kind of new ideal sibling you would have. My gosh. Yeah. Turns out some people really love their siblings, and they're quite happy. Yeah. And then there was some of us who really would like something different. Yeah. Are there any only children in the group? No. Only children? Yeah, there's a couple of people with just brothers. One had just brothers and one had two sisters. Two old boys or girls. Yeah. And they both wanted a sibling of the opposite gender. Yeah, right.

Melis Senova 3:46 Yeah, so I'm an only child and I. I find it difficult to imagine what it would be like to have a another sibling, your brother or a sister and all Because we, we came to Australia when I was three, it's just Mum, Dad and I. And I didn't really have an extended family I didn't have aunties and uncles and cousins and that sort of stuff. So I've really only experienced a friendship, really, and family friends and, and that sort of thing. And when we're in situations with icebreakers, or whatever, running a workshop, and tell them a little bit about yourself, and people have told me about situations where they used to fight with their sibling and that, you know, sometimes physical fighting, you know, slapping each other and throwing each other to the ground and stuff, I just kind of say that they had that. Like, I've never really experienced anything like that in my life. Mm hmm. And I find it really difficult to connect with those scenarios because it's just not a part of my lived experience.

Cyndi Dawes 4:49 Yes, yeah. I have the opposite. I have three siblings or younger. And it's where you have to learn to collaborate, get a job in life. So what's the job of an only child?

Melis Senova 5:03 Job of an only child... You know, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself growing up to be everything. So to be the Son that my dad.. Not that he ever felt in he even made me feel like he wanted to have a son but I, you know, when he was transferring petrol from his gerry can into his motorcycle, I'd be out there with him, you know, with the hose and all that sort of stuff and and, you know, be the daughter and that was easier because I guess I am that for mom. But I think, you know, growing up, I was really active. I was always I mean, I played tennis all the time, every sort of spam in our head, I was either hitting the ball in the carport or I was on the court playing with people. And so I wasn't really at home much actually going up and I sometimes wonder whether or not I mean, mom's really happy With how I turned out, obviously, she's always you know, loved me and all that sort of stuff that I just I don't think I was your stay at home, help mum with the chores and stuff type of daughter. And I think I actually put quite a bit of pressure on myself growing up to be to be all things. Hmm. And the other thing as well, I mean, I don't think this is this is the job of an only child but at least is almost like a it's like a symptom of being one perhaps is that you have the full attention of both parents all the time.

Cyndi Dawes 6:41 Yeah, I can imagine that has some downside.

Melis Senova 6:45 Yeah, I mean, it's lovely. And also, though, especially when I was a teenager, I used to think if there was only like one other person in this household right now, this could probably fly under the radar than what it is at the moment!

Cyndi Dawes 7:03 Yeah, interesting. The I, I'm an eldest, which never surprises anyone. And I have a lot of friends it turns out who will also eldest children. And I feel like we're going to mention for Brene brown every single episode I'm sure I did last one. So here comes another one. You know, she talks about I guess she doesn't talk about the job of the child but the role that of someone has in a family Yeah. And she talks about how often the role of over functional so people in a crisis there you know, two different kinds of things. There's over functioning and under functioning and often the over function is a person who was the eldest child and the under functional. He's the person who was the youngest child and in times of crisis, the younger you know, the younger child, the under functional will say, I need help, I can't do this. And the over functional say, I've got this let me help you and I'm definitely in the over functioning category, which has, you know, quite a lot downside. But I wonder if if that's the only child thing as well, because I feel like that may not resonate with that. Yeah, I wonder that's why I asked kind of what's the job of an only child because I guess you don't have to wrangle younger kids. Like all the children often have to do but actually pretty self reliant. Or, do you get to be constantly under-functioning because your parents do everything for you?

Melis Senova 8:31 Yeah, that wasn't my experience. My mum mum certainly went to all lengths to make sure that the house was cleaned and food was on the table and but she worked as well and dad worked full time and we, you know, where the migrant family mum was learning English like I needed to... Mum has this story where she went for her driver's license. And she still to this day doesn't understand how she passed because she was kind of looking at the questions and I was this little three year old and I have these I don't know if this is a constructed memory over or a real memory. I remember my little hands on the side of a table and looking across the top of the table. So I was just to the table would sort of be at my nose height, and mum doing this test and that my job was to be quiet and still and not distract her because it was really, really important that she got this thing and I don't know whether or not that's this constructed memory that I have through story that mum always says which is basically that she said, You know we will catching buses everywhere and I was still learning English and I was going to sit this written exam to get my license and I told you that, you know, if I'm able to get this then we won't have to catch the bus anymore. I can start driving here. And so what I need you to do is for the next 45 minutes or hour or whatever it was, I just needed to be quiet and still so I can concentrate and I did it. And she sort of, you know, prepped me for this. So I feel like we were a team, you know, and I was really, really little, but I always felt this sense of responsibility to just sort of play my part in this.

Cyndi Dawes 10:24 That is a bit like I mean, that's a bit like my experience as the eldest child, so my mum's first language was Dutch. She arrived here post-war taught us off English from reading magazines and watching soap operas. I think I'm working the my job from very wainy I just soon as I could write really, was to fill out all the bank forms for her when we went to the bank. She never developed any confidence in writing English. I mean, she spoke English, but in a weird way. But um, so that was my job from a very early age until she died. My dad would obviously do a lot of the more strategic finance but all the day to day tactical finance stuff was my job forever.

Melis Senova 11:10 So going back to the, to the seat of this conversation, we said the scaffolding in the cards and your friends and knowing them for. And did you discover new things? Like was it this? Oh my goodness, I never knew that about you moment or was it more vividly coloring in your current sort of knowledge of them?

Cyndi Dawes 11:32 Yeah, I think it was more vividly coloring and understanding the antecedents to some things we knew about people. Um, yeah, I don't know. I did learn something new about one person, which was really lovely and actually helped a whole lot of things make sense. Yeah.

And it was just such a change of pace. Because, you know, we've been friends for a long time. We have these ridiculous raucous dinners and we always feel sorry for everyone else at the restaurant. We always were the loudest table in the restaurant, and there's a lot of joking when another goes on. Uh huh. Yeah, it's a lot of escalation as a hero. So it was I actually really enjoyed the kind of cheesiness. Yeah. Like just sitting and listening quietly to what someone had to say and not joking about it.

Melis Senova 12:22 Do you think that when things I don't even want to say normal, but when the restrictions get relaxed, and we can kind of do the whole dining restaurant thing again? Do you think you would ever do something like this, in those in those times under those conditions?

Cyndi Dawes 12:40 Look, I have gotten out the cards preisolation. They weren't a complete act of desperation. So I don't know. I mean, it is interesting to wonder about what are the things we're doing now that actually are enhancing our lives and we want to take forward to post COVID world think yeah, that might be one of them.

Melis Senova 13:06 Hmm, you know that term post COVID i don't i don't know if i actually think that's a thing.

Cyndi Dawes 13:14 I don't know I just made it up but you don't like it?

Melis Senova 13:16 No, no, I just don't think that that I don't think there is post COVID I think COVID is here to stay. I think we're always going to be living with this virus. I don't think it's gonna disappear.

Cyndi Dawes 13:26 Well, that is true because the plague you know, the, the Spanish flu? No, no, the Black Death or the bubonic plague one of those two? Yeah, half fact, from my friend, the epidemiologist. Gotta get that phrase in this week as well. So apparently, we talked about this. A virus is a living thing. And its aim is to stay alive. Oh, yeah. So when it kills the host.It can't stay alive. So viruses evolve over time to become less yeah weaker, and have less impact on the person who's carrying them around, which is why that virus from the Middle Ages still exists. So I guess you're right. The virus will always exist it just won't have such a big impact on our life. Yeah, the technically my invented term is very incorrect.

Melis Senova 14:20 point that out. And the

The reason why I raised that was because post COVID is a thing where people I mean, I don't like people refer to that as a term. And, and it's often at the same time as they're talking about the new normal, you know, knows COVID, new normal, all these sort of terms are getting used now because I think, you know, we've been in this for, I don't know, close to two months, seven weeks, eight weeks, whatever it has been, who knows, I don't even know what day it is sometimes.

And there is a there is a new rhythm of life that I think finding themselves in and I know that we've noticed at how all the work is slowly starting to sort of come back on line. I say that with hesitation because it's very slow. And that people are getting used to this new new rhythm. And I just wonder whether or not saying things like, post COVID sets this expectation that at some point, it's like, okay, we're done with this. And now we go, we're in this other space. I just think that this is what it's going to be like COVID will always be with us. As with any other potential virus, that might cause a pandemic. It's always possible. The only thing that's really going to change is our increased resilience or increased preparedness out increased adaptability to those situations and our increased immunity or whatever it is. And I don't know, I'm just literally just exploring this with you live.

And does that help or hinder? The way that we think how things are going to be?

Cyndi Dawes 16:15 Hmm, I guess I agree with you. And I do think, you know, there are great events and periods in history that transform how people live and work and think about the world. Okay. And I think this pandemic, and its far reaching impact will transform a whole lot of things. So for instance, we know that countries that have better universal health care are doing better, doing better there because they can afford to get tested. They can afford to give treatment to people. You know, we know that people are announced, you know, we talked about this to be a last in the last podcast about how ethics is kind of coming to the fore and the

The more decisions that people make, and I think there'll be an increased look at, you know, how is what we're doing in the world actually affecting the planet because we're seeing, you know, the planet kind of breathing and getting healthier and regenerating and, and we've learned that all these things we thought we could never do digitally online, we can do so, you know, you talk about hospitals without walls. You know, now we have schools without walls, and we have law without walls and friendship without like, we have so many things now. And obviously, we will crave human connection. And that's, you know, the thing most people talk about wanting to do is hug somebody else or same somebody else. So being a restaurant or whatever. It's like nobody's craving another online experience. Okay. But what can we take from that, that actually gives us a sustainable life and maybe democratizes things like health care, and so I think, yeah, I think I might stick by post COVID just as a marker.

Melis Senova 18:00 Huh, yeah, okay, just on the, I don't know if it's appropriate to talk about, you know, that the planet is breathing. And I had that whole experience with the rosellas. Oh, yeah.

Cyndi Dawes 18:14 Are you gonna talk about that?

Melis Senova 18:15 I dont' know if I will, but let's just say there was a confusing incident with two pairs on my driveway.

Cyndi Dawes 18:27 And so this demonstrates a fairly sheltered childhood.

Melis Senova 18:31 And, but it's not very often that we save as rosellas actually in the trees here in the parks and stuff around where I live. Absolutely, but not necessarily on my driveway. And, and because it's quiet as well, you hearing more things, like sounds of nature, which I'm also appreciating.

Cyndi Dawes 18:54 Should we talk about things we've been reading or listening to because I know you are quite came to talk about something in particular.

Melis Senova 19:02 Sure. So I am there's a tweet that I wanted to talk about to I don't really that could. That's a part of what I'm reading. I guess that counts. Yeah. And the, the audio book that you suggested that I read, called untamed by Glennon Doyle...

Cyndi Dawes 19:24 We both said her name because we love her so much plus we do have a bit of trouble pronouncing remembering the first bit.

Melis Senova 19:30 Yeah Glennon Doyle and which I have been reading thank you and I, it's, gosh, where do I start? The overarching theme, as it resonates with me as I listen to this book is a message about learning how to live your life without abandoning yourself and finding the balance between living a life on your terms and not constantly pleasing others with the decisions that you make. And at the same time showing up as a mother or showing up as a partner and all of that, and the the complexity and the balance that comes with that way of living. And one of the things that she talks about is that to live life this way, isn't particularly easy or comfortable. But through her life journey, what she has learned is that the worst thing that she can possibly do is to abandon herself and there's lots of decisions that she made, whether it's sobriety or whether it was leaving her husband to be with her partner whose name is Abby (famous Olympian)

And, and how difficult getting they're getting to that point where she realized that that was exactly what she needed to do, and that she was looking at her children at the time and going, I can't believe I'm going to be the one who's going to break your heart. But I have to, because that's me demonstrating to you this is what it looks like to show up for yourself in your life. And what am i modeling to you? So there's there's just been so many. And also she she talks about her relationship with her faith and the journey that she's been on as a Christian and, having not grown up in any sort of religious environment I really liked the way that she was talking about an incident where she because of some of the life choices that she made. She was either excommunicated from the church or something happened. And it took her some time to realize that it was actually her and her relationship with God against the church, as opposed to the church and God against her. And that realization for her was obviously quite transformative.

I have unfortunately taught myself how to crochet in this moment of isolation. So I'm crocheting while I've been listening to her thing, and I have found myself crying, and it's usually I am, I'm crying. I'm not at have this sense of sadness or grief that actually, I find myself crying at these moments of tenderness that she's talking about. Like especially she was talking about her, her daughter and how she her daughter was going through a rough time and she felt that she was around the age of 10. And she felt that she was sort of slipping a little bit and Abby, being you know, a sports player and a soccer player actually said no, I think instead of, you know, go to therapy and getting help with their head, I think what we need to do is get our on the soccer field so she should try out for this. But it is soccer team.

Cyndi Dawes 23:18 That's an amazing, beautiful story...

Melis Senova 23:21 ...gorgeous story and every instinct that Glennon had, which was to protect her daughter and to save her from hardship, that sort of stuff and protect her from failure or potential failure was exactly not what her daughter needed at the time and that she did the hard thing and she did the training and she went out there and she tried out and she got in and I love that saying that she says all the time, actually in the book, which is we can do hard things.

Cyndi Dawes 23:37 She does this some. I feel like this podcast is brought to you by Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle. So we'll probably start talking about her again, but she does this really beautiful weekly Instagram meeting the kids. Cool. And last week's were really beautiful, sparkly top and she made a coloring page or a coloring book or something for kids that was we can do hard things. Love and yeah, she's. Yeah. Listen to her after you listen to us. She's really yeah. Amazing. Yeah. Anything else you're reading or listening to the tweet? Yeah. Well, I had it all sort of queued up now and it's gone. Alright, so I think we'll leave it for next week. All right. So I want to talk about a couple of things. I want to do a bit of a riff on why I read fiction and why everyone should read fiction. Okay, because as well as is podcasting brought to you by Brene Brown. Huddle. Glennon Doyle. I think you're a continued listener, you'll discover that it's also brought to you by fiction. So I want to talk about that.

But first of all, I want to talk about watching master chef. Okay, so people often describe it as it goes to pleasure. I just don't think you should ever feel guilty about watching masterchef

Melis Senova 25:05 Why is it a guilty pleasure?

I don't know. Like, it's, it's the kind of reality TV competition show. Okay, you know, but I really love it. And I especially love one of the new judges this year. Her name is I think is Melissa she was the most extraordinary earrings and she has an excellent vocabulary. But you know, what I really love about her.

Cyndi Dawes 25:43 You know, one of the things I love about master chef, is that it's kind of like design and problem solving in like, in a nutshell, okay. So very rarely do the contestants get asked to cook anything. Okay, so they get design constraints, they get told to make something delicious using berries or they six ingredients. So chicken feet or whatever.

So if they ever get told they can just cook anything they want, actually, rarely do they shine. They really suffer with that with that lack of constraint. And the creativity that they demonstrate through the design constraints, like someone made chicken feet caramel a couple of weeks ago, chicken feet, yeah, chicken feet caramel. Like apparently the fat in the chicken feet makes the caramel really unctuous and amazing.

They kind of find the depths within themselves that they don't think they can find, you know, there's one of the contestants, so they're all contestants that have come back from previous episodes and many of them are well loved, although I think they've thrown a couple in that were quite polarizing and people did not love. I know there's certainly one that my family did not love and he makes another appearance. But Po, very famous, just known by her first name in Australia. She is often still waiting for something to come out of the oven with three minutes to go. You know, I'd be having some kind of like I would literally melting on the wall. But she had nerves of steel on the way shetimes everything and has the full confidence in itself that she's gonna do something amazing. It's just, I don't know, it's really beautiful to watch and I'm getting a lot out of it.

Melis Senova 27:54 And I think I think it's, um, you know, I really like the way that you're seeing Something else in it, you know, and often like when we spoke about constraints before and weirdly, this is this is actually related to something else that I read, which was about the, about the immune system and cells in our body and, and that if we constantly create conditions for ourselves that are easy and comfortable, we're not putting the appropriate stresses on our bodies to be able to just like exercise, right and muscles. But it also happens at the cellular level, like stem cells, for example, when you put certain amount of pressure on them in a certain way it and they know then to either turn into bone or to muscle or to whatever, and that's what I was reading actually, again, perfect. I'll try and remember the source.

And but it also reminds me of constraints a constraints that become these stressor on your thinking. And I've always spoken about this in the context of the work that we do, which is, let's not be afraid of them, let's not be afraid of the fact that we need to achieve this in this timeframe. And we need to do it within this budget. And when we need to have 18 stakeholders happy and we need to do it with three people. And let's not be afraid of that, let's actually welcome those constraints. And see then what what emerges what creativity we then get access to, because without those constraints, you don't have access to that. But it takes that framing to unlock the key to creativity I find, whereas if you sit in the place of this is never going to happen. It's not possible. These are unfair. It actually restricts you from being able to access that I think those opportunities basis.

Cyndi Dawes 29:58 Oh, I definitely agree with that. And I, yeah, I just love watching the way they fully embrace those constraints. Yeah. A master chef and you know, sadly for some of the clients I'm working with at the moment, they're gonna hear about this too, because we're working on creativity and constraints next week. Yeah. Yeah. Done. I'll roll out the masterchef stories.

Unknown Speaker 30:19 Yeah,

Melis Senova 30:20 yeah. Don't say the thing.

Cyndi Dawes 30:22 Well, I wanted to a little riff on fiction. Quickly. Can I do it really? I don't know if anyone listening to this listens to Chat 10 Looks 3 but um,

two beautiful women Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb, and Leigh is always hurrying Annabel. I think I'm channeling Leigh as we do this, (you're doing it to yourself!) I know I'm self censoring. It's very sad.

So fiction, I read fiction. What's the word I'm looking for voraciously? I have done since I was a child. And when I was managing larger group of consultants, I would often recommend a piece of fiction to them if I was struggling with something or stuck on a project and this was in IT, so a lot of them are writing nonfiction books about IT. And I would always recommend fiction and I always thought it was a bit kooky.

But you know, fiction is, it's like building your empathy muscle, and I found this really beautiful analogy that you are going to love. (Okay, I'm ready.) You are gonna love it. Okay, so, reading, I'm gonna have to write it out. Reading is like a flight simulator.

Melis Senova 31:35 Okay, is that why I'm gonna love it?

Cyndi Dawes 31:37 That's why you're gonna love it—Melis has an aviation background.

So, why is it like a flight simulator? Because you experienced a lot of situations in a short span of time, far more so than if we went about our lives, waiting for those experiences to come to us. So it's actually like a life simulator. Okay? You know You know, if you think about, I don't know, a book, like the Underground Railroad about slaves seeking freedom, you know, in the south of the states, I'm never gonna be that person. I don't know anybody who was that person. And yet, through reading that book, I'm deeply immersed in what it's like to be that and that's going to help me understand other experiences, okay? And so they, there's all these studies, like there's quite a lot of my friends shared this article, because we're all readers, and it made us feel good about ourselves, because there's this Washington Post article called, "does reading fiction make you a better person?" And the answer, of course, is yes. Otherwise, we wouldn't be mentioning it... I'm listening for similarity.

When you are trying to understand what someone else is thinking of feeling when you're having a conversation with them, or you're working with them, there's these bits of your brain that light up. They might be the mirror neurons. But half fact okay? Do you know what when you're reading fiction, the same bits of your brain light up—exactly the same bits of your brain light up—because what you're doing is you're getting into that mind, you have to use your imagination to understand what it's like to be in the mind of that person. Okay, and it turns out that you have to actually do the reading. You can't just read a synopsis of the story. So there's a lot of those apps.

Yeah, so there's some on the study, half fact, that showed there was a piece of fiction about a Muslim woman's experience. And half the participants read an excerpt not even the whole novel, they wrote an excerpt of that novel. And then the other half read a synopsis telling them what the story was about. And the half that read the actual story, and so had always get to their brain lineup and we're in that kind of mind of someone else. They demonstrated less assumptions about race than the people who just read the synopsis.

Melis Senova 34:05 Okay, and an excerpt is literally just a small section changed. Yeah. And a synopsis is a summary.

Cyndi Dawes 34:11 Exactly. Just Just a portion of it. Yeah. So that's why we're gonna be talking about fiction a lot. Because I mean, I love it. And I just love the experience of being in someone else's life and living in another story and vicariously experiencing something I may never experience.

Melis Senova 34:31 I wonder—because I talk about imagination in This Human. And I feel like going back and reading that section and wondering whether or not I even mentioned reading fiction. I'm pretty sure you did as a way. I don't think I do. And because the way that I'm making sense of what you're saying, and it's really fascinating is that what you're what you're saying is by reading fiction, you're working out your imagination. You're giving different inputs into your brain to construct different worlds that otherwise you wouldn't believe you wouldn't have that experience in your life and you'll in lived experience, and that capacity to be able to construct alternate realities is one of the fundamental capabilities, I believe in being able to envision an alternate reality that we can then go and do something about. So I can completely See the link there between what you're saying and how it would improve any type of creative endeavor actually, exactly.

Cyndi Dawes 35:42 But I also think it does make you a better person—not just in life even if you're not creative, because because you are really exercising that empathy muscle and doing it really actively.

Melis Senova 35:54 You know, I wonder whether or not there's another level to that. Which is that does make you a better person, if you do have this, as you do, this level of self awareness where that actually gets integrated into who you are, because I know that there are ways to be able to engage in material that's very superficial, that doesn't actually change anything about yourself.

And that's a very different, it's a very different way of engaging with content than the way that I think you're talking about, which is you are actually immersed in your reflective and there needs to be whether you're conscious or not. There needs to be some sort of a dialogue in your mind that says something like, Oh, that's really interesting. I never realized that about that. Oh, I wonder whether or not like it's this curiosity that also sits behind the imagination. I think that is the pathway for you to actually integrate those insights that you've just had through reading this fictional tale about a particular person.

Cyndi Dawes 37:00 I don't know if that's true, you know? You know, based on the miniscule amount of neuroscience, I read about this, because I feel like your brain is actually doing that work for you. Right? So if you're reading and the bad news for those of you who love science fiction or action novels is you're not going to get this effect through reading those books. You need to read books where they talk about the inner life of the characters, and you have to do the work to infer and understand those characters, right? Not all kinds of fiction.

It's fiction that is really wankily called literary fiction, which is the fiction that we've learned that I like, it's about it's about the in life there's a lot of thoughts and feelings and and you have to work quite hard as a reader to do it. I don't know that you have to be consciously going. I am now feeling this. I am noticing this. I'm doing this because I think if your brain is lining up in the same way, it will if you were actually in a space with the person who was experiencing or sharing those thoughts, or you're inferring those thoughts, I feel like your brains doing all the work for you.

Melis Senova 38:12 Yeah, I wonder whether or not the so the reason why I'm thinking about the integration part of things is through my direct experience of going and doing some sort of a course for example. And, and it's very easy to go and experience something and then to not have to change any aspect of the way that you think more be or exist in the world. Unless you actually do this bit, which I'm just referring to as integration where you actually sit in reflection of what it was that you just encountered, and how it then changes you in some some way. So that it then shows up in your in your life, and I think that's when I'm when I'm sharing my perspective. I'm reflecting on my own experience, those sorts of things. Because I'm not a fiction reader.

Cyndi Dawes 39:13 in the same way as I'm learning to be a non

Melis Senova 39:17 Yeah,

That's fascinating. And is it Mystery Question time? Or do you have something else obviously?

Cyndi Dawes 39:24 Well, I just wanted to talk about one piece of fiction. Oh, yeah, do it. I'm going to not so quickly. Okay. I'm gonna do it in the leisurely way. I've been reading a lot of things but I've been reading this really very funny but quiet moving book. It's called Nothing to See Here. By Kevin Wilson. And it's about two children who spontaneously burst into flame. When they're anxious or upset or something bad is going on in their life. And so the book is about two old friends, one of whom is treated the other very poorly in the past. But she relies upon her and she asks her to come. And basically, they outsource care, these flame bursting children to this woman.

And it sounds ludicrous, but it's really beautifully observed. And it just gets you so deep into what it's like to be a child full of fury and anger or disappointment or sadness and not having an avenue to express that. And so these kids just burst into flame, and how people respond to that and the space that give for that. And it's also very funny, there's, you know, it's a bit of a caper novel and there's human relationships and it's really, really, really beautifully written. so beautifully written and the voice of the narrator is quite compelling.

She's a bit of a slacker, actually. And she doesn't care about things. And this is quite a funny liner at the beginning, which talks about how she wasn't born to greatness. And she didn't aspire to it, but she did a spider, find someone who had it and to steal some of this.

And that gives you a bit of an insight into her general approach to life. But anyway, I really highly recommend the book. It's not very hard. But it's, yeah, it's really lovely and very funny. So it's not gonna be my next thing. Yeah, maybe I think that we might put that on your list. Okay. Yeah. All right. He said, we think we need to move on to the Mr. Christian, that there was just one thing that you said that I wanted to ask about what you actually meant when he said, it's really beautifully observed. Does that mean what I mean is so the kind of tiny little things that people do or say, or movements, they may call ways they respond to things?

Right, in that the author was able to describe those things.

Yeah. Yeah, right.

Melis Senova 41:59 So that It brings it into your view.

Cyndi Dawes 42:01 Exactly. It gives you Uh huh. It's, you know, what are they? It's gonna be a saying I'm going to butcher so I think I might use it okay. But um, you know, someone like Helen Ghana is also a really just top notch observer of how people move through the world and what they do. And it gives you access to those people in a different way than they language dogs or what they're wearing or.

Melis Senova 42:24 And I think we should move on to the Mystery Question, because I actually have a question around whether or not because I read lots of nonfiction by Edward O. Wilson, who's the naturalist, you know, the guy who studied the ads for 25 years and, and he now writes about human nature. And I find that he, the stuff that he writes is really beautifully observed, as well, even though what he's actually writing about isnonfiction. It's describing the nature of things for people and how they In the world, so it's not necessarily just a fiction there. No, not at all. Yeah. Cool.

All right, Mystery Question, alright, are you ready?

Cyndi Dawes 43:09 No. I find this stressful.

Melis Senova 43:12 We might not do this for the next one.

Cyndi Dawes 43:15 It's stressful for us.

Melis Senova 43:16 It's good for us. It's good for stem cells.

Melis Senova 43:20 What impact do you think the pandemic will have on children?

Cyndi Dawes 43:25 I think you should go — you have one.

Melis Senova 43:33 You have two children.

What impact do I think it's gonna have? You know, I'm only I can only talk about what I'm observing in my son now. And that is that and in fact, was just last night where I just said, I'm just so impressed and amazed at the way that you have adapted to a completely different routine around his learning. So he's in year eight, and fully online. And I must say he's, he's kind of digging the hole this situation. So he gets to get up a little bit later. And he's not catching the bus into school and they're not wearing their school uniforms, but they do need to be dressed appropriately. And he's saying that he's actually he's finding himself so much more productive in this way of learning than what he is in the classroom setting. And I'm also conscious that this is talking about the impact of covert on the way that kids are getting educated in that I've needed to move to remote learning, those sorts of questions that I have in my mind, sort of If we're to use the post covert thing is, what is their relationship going to be like with physical intimacy? What is their relationship going to be like with proximity? So you know, the whole personal space thing. People who live in the city can tolerate people that stand a little bit closer than perhaps people who live in the regional areas, culturally changes, personal space changes culturally. I wonder whether or not we're going to see a difference to that post this pandemic as well and whether or not that becomes a thing that children carry. The other thing I was thinking about is what are the like the greeting rituals that we had, you know, hugs, handshakes, high fives, chest bumps, like what are we going to have them and if we're not going to have the water we're gonna have I feel like we we will returned. I hope that we will because I'm a hugger. But I just wonder what their what the normal is going to be as in what is their expectation of physical contact with people. And whether or not that's going to be shifted in any way. Hmm.

Unknown Speaker 46:19 Yeah.

Cyndi Dawes 46:21 I'm interested in how the relationship between children and parents is changing now, maybe younger children. Yeah. Then your child you know, just from speaking to children in the park at a distance and looks at my friends with children. You know, they talking about struggling with being a parent and a teacher. And how, as a homeschooling homeschooling and how, you know, Francis said to me yesterday, he said, I just think teachers have more authority over my kids than I do. They can ask them to do things I can't ask them to do and you know, those boundaries are getting blurred. And, you know, I you the teacher from nine till three and I either parent before that and after that and you know, so I find that really fascinating how parents and children's relationships might be changed. And, you know, what are the things they might want to take forward from that, and one of the things they might want to leave behind and definitely, and back to a school or a teacher, because I think that's been quite challenging for both the children and, and the schools. What else do I think the impact will be? I mean, you know, something, I hope isn't an impact. But I remember from when I was not a child, but I guess, you know, an older teenager and a very young adult was we had this kind of fee a setup across us about nuclear war and, you know, there was the whole Chernobyl thing and that really cost a shadow, you know, lives.

Maybe not for everybody, but for my friends and I and I just sat deeply buried within us this this low level anxiety. And I wonder if this there's going to be a low level anxiety about kind of health and hygiene and mortality and bad things happening. You know, like a lot of kids, the grandparents, there's a lot of fear about grandparents, you know, I have a neighbor, a really beautiful neighbor and I was talking to him on the street yesterday or the day before and he was saying, Well, actually, for a lot of retirees life hasn't changed that much. And but he's rolled up in design, he said, but I haven't seen my grandkids for six weeks. And the parents won't let them come here and I can't see them because they're worried about my health. And I wonder what kind of miss each like what that's doing to kids this this fear of hurting their grandparents. Yeah.

Melis Senova 48:52 Yeah. And, and then there's also so you spoke about the the changing nature of relationship between parents and the kids because of the schooling and all that sort of stuff. And then there's also the increased amount of time that parents are also spending with their kids, like the parks have busier than what I've ever seen them around here. And I think there's lots of positive things that are sort of happening as a result of the sort of isolation that we're all in as well. And, but even with my son, I've been, you know, he's very contentious staying at home. And, and that's, you know, partly to his personality and all that sort of stuff. But, you know, I, if I, if you were to take it, like to the extreme, it's almost like but, you know, the outside world is this fascinating adventure to be had, you know, there's, it's a very, very constrained set of experiences that you can have within the four walls of your home and you know, Before this, I felt that his expectation was that he was going to go out and discover the world. And that was the internal story that he had. In his mind. I'm not sure now. How live that is. Interesting. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 50:16 yeah, I met a hilarious and astonishing child on the oval. Last week, I was walking my dogs with a friend of mine who's just returned from Europe. She's an international aid worker. We were We were walking together and we let the dogs off at this park to have a bit of a run. And there was some other people standing around and some dogs and you know, this quite small child. Well, maybe she was seven or eight, came over and just started chatting to us. And she was full of confidence and vim and vigor and she asked about the dogs and what kind of dogs they were and how I was and a whole bunch of other things. And then I asked her about homeschooling and what was going on and she was The only child she had no pets so she talked about how lonely she was. But turns out she went to doctor school which is the bilingual German school near us. And and then I thought you should talk to my friend she the friend I was with speaks fluent German girl and in quiet how are we friends? What did my friend do? How did we know it? Like she was just a full on kind of drenching in human experience. Super overloading and then she my friend had this very long conversation in German, about which I understood nothing. Yeah, it was really, she was a mother was standing at the very other side of the park just just letting her wander around and talk to other human.

Melis Senova 51:46 Yeah, this is necessary. Yeah.

Cyndi Dawes 51:49 Yeah. It was really nice.

Melis Senova 51:51 All right. Well, again, another great mystery question. Yes. I almost want to be able to be more prepared.

Cyndi Dawes 51:58 I know. I know. I don't reall enjoy that mystery question. There's a little panic response to me when you read them.

Melis Senova 52:08 They're a little bit of spontaneity. Yeah. Especially welcome in these times.

Okay. Well, that's it. I think I think we should wrap up. Thanks very much for listening, everybody. Thanks for being with us. We'll put all of the links in the show notes as we did last time. And I look forward to seeing you or being with you or talking to you. Yeah, listen and talk to you again this time next week.

Bye bye.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai and then there was lots of editing.