30 Years - Interlude 1: A Study into Storytelling
Why do we tell stories? I know that few of you have considered that question. It isn’t particularly important to daily existence these days and probably doesn’t take up a lot of cognitive space in the minds of any outside of scholarly circles. But I’d like to take a second to think about it, and I would appreciate it if you joined me in this thought experiment.
Anthropological research has shown us that storytelling has been an essential part of every human civilization since time immemorial. Acting to transfer historical events, impart warnings or lessons or explain things inexplicable to our normal perception of the world around us, the historical and cultural effect of storytelling is obvious. But upon further reflection, I believe that a further study into this phenomenon is prudent.
If we look at the above uses of storytelling, we can see a similarity not obvious upon first consideration. We use stories to make sense of the world around us, while sharing the understanding with those that will listen. That near symbiotic relationship between storyteller and listener is encoded in our very DNA. Without it, we would not have survived to become the (perceived and relatively) advanced culture we have today. Think about it. Stories of boogeyman, monsters and evil entities have warned humans away from hidden dangers for millennia. As an example, the Native American legend of the Wendigo was told as a warning to not venture out into the frigid cold of the icy winters alone and to be sufficiently stocked on provisions to survive said winter, lest the Wendigo cross your path or, heavens forbid, you turn into one yourself.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, the importance of storytelling and the art behind it all, has become less and less important or practiced over time. The influx of media and entertainment have stifled the growth of this ancient form of art. We no longer sit around campfires or in front of hearths, telling tales of heroes and villains, warriors, and monsters, good and evil. We sit in front of televisions, absorbing the same stories over and over, presented by a different face. Legends are being lost to ages and names that once struck fear or inspired awe are but husks of their former selves. I’m not trying to tell you what to do with your life or what your choice of entertainment should be. All I’m saying is that there are stories left to tell. Please don’t let them die.