The Parable of the Black Sheep

Three scientists were on a train and had just crossed the border into Scotland. A black sheep was grazing on a hillside. The biologist peered out of the window and said, “Look! Scottish sheep are black!” The chemist said, “No, no. Some Scottish sheep are black.” The physicist, with an irritated tone in his voice, said, “My friends, there is at least one field, containing at least one sheep, of which at least one side is black some of the time.”

One might be familiar with asking / thinking:

  • What’s “the point” of a story?
  • What’s “the moral” of a story?

But what about: What’s the armature of this story?

As explained in Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate, in sculpture, an armature is a framework around which the sculpture is built. This framework provides structure and stability, especially when a plastic material such as wax, newspaper or clay is being used as the medium.

How does this apply to stories?

The armature of a story is the framework (moral or “point”) around which the story is built (written or told).

Just like every great sculpture has an armature, every great story has a point.

After reading Invisible Ink, I started to see if I could notice the armature in any story I come across: this could be a movie, a novel, an essay, or even a short parable like the above.

So what is the armature of the parable of the black sheep?

Peter Attia explains it well:

If you see even a single black sheep in the field, depending on your field of training, you can draw conclusions. Even an experiment of sample size one (one black sheep) can be good for something.


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