There’s one simple idea that runs through this site: art teaches us how to live. That’s what it’s for. Art, entertainment, there’s no distinction for my purposes. Everything has a “lesson,” a way of looking at the world.
See, if an author, or a team of creators, make something, they bring their assumptions to the table. Even if they never set out to tell you how you should live your life, they portray the way they believe people should live their lives. Tell me your favorite genre is the western, and I know a lot about your ethics system (tell me which western and I’ll know more, of course; there’re a lot out there).
Art can be abstracted into messages on how you should live your life, and how to go about doing it.
The first psychologists were literature critics. The first academics were priests. And, of course, the other way around.
I’m not just here to tell you what a short story meant. You can figure out a meaning for yourself if you’re interested in the story. I’m here to let you into the nervous system of another human being (me) who is, simultaneously, experiencing the nervous system of another human being (the author/s). Then I use what expertise I may have to abstract ways of living out of it. I have a doctorate in literature and cultural studies, teach humanities, and practice chaos magic. So I am pretty well suited to say something useful about how you can use a story or a movie or a game to do something in your life. Something small, maybe, but a magic trick is really a bunch of small movements no one else can see. Do enough movements and the trick is performed.
It’s sometimes called “metaprogramming,” which is just “programming your own head.” It’s psychology, basically. The only difference is that stories and art and symbols have been used for the whole of human history to inject data into the human brain. Art is a computer virus of the mind. Pick the right art, run enough iterations, and you will be different. You will have fundamental symbol-systems in you that weren’t there before. The old ones aren’t gone, they’re just not alone in there any longer. You have more to draw from, and more practice doing so. And this time, you’ll have chosen the symbol-systems for yourself, instead of having them chosen for you by your surroundings.
That’s it. It’s simple. But it’s the best magic trick you can teach yourself.