Quotes from four of the books I have open at the moment: from Brody's The Other Side of Eden, McKee's Story, Gladwell's The Tipping Point, and Penn and Kinney Zalesne's Microtrends.
Shamanic forms of expertise are based on a multitude of specific facts; they do not arrange the natural world into hierarchies of families and genera.... Hunter-gatherer knowledge is inductive and intuitive; its conclusions emerge by allowing all that has been learned to process itself. (Brody, pp. 268, 269)
Inside the scene [within a story] is the smallest element of structure.... A beat is an exchange of behaviour in action/reaction. Beat by beat these changing behaviours shape the turning of a scene. (McKee, p. 37)
To look closely at complex behaviours like smoking or suicide or crime is to appreciate how suggestible we are in the face of what we see and hear, and how acutely sensitive we are to even the smallest details of everyday life. (Gladwell, p.259)
In fact, the whole idea that there are a few huge trends that determine how America and the whole world work is breaking down. There are no longer a couple of megaforces sweeping us all along. Instead, America and the world are being pulled apart by an intricate maze of choices, accumulating in "microtrends" small, under-the-radar forces ... which are powerfully shaping our
society. (Penn and Kinney Zalesne, pp. xii, xiii)
In a nutshell, the more detail, the more data swarming, the more we are all in a position to think like hunter-gatherers. Think as we have evolved to think, using science, perhaps, but in the service of intuition. Think as the highly refined tellers of stories that we are. Then better placed to put intuition in the service of an imaginative and renewed science.
It could go wrong: the latter two books are both keen to comfort the control freak by suggesting that knowledge of the small gives us the power to direct others. Though I'll take my comfort in the thought that by the time truly we are able to see the tiny atomie all together, we'll have been won over by an anarchic and compassionate, shamanistic (dare I say truly christian?) vision, one that values wisdom, a good mystery and the diverse natural world.