Narratives are the machinery of thought, the engines of enterprise, the architects of defense and first responders to threats.
Every minute of every hour of every day we’re bombarded by a steady stream of information with which we must keep up, sort, discard and assemble. We do that with what we call language.
Words, sentences, syntax, tenses and structure all combine to give us the power to communicate. They file thought in minute bits of energy that dance within our craniums like electrons in an atom.
And what do we use this deluge of information? We tell stories. We build stories from these bits of energy stuffed into crevices of our cerebrum.
We use these stories tell us why things happen; or why they don’t. We file them as memories for call-up when needed. They help us catagorize events and teach us how to behave. They give us religion and create rationales for war. They record history and its lessons, and even attempt to foretell our future.
Stories give us the single most important gift of life, the one most responsible for our success as a species … the ability to communicate in meaningful ways. With this ability we band together in communal efforts to insure our survival, and it’s worked surprisingly well so far, as our dominion over all other big animals on earth proves.
Stories, from the simple like “You go there. Chase antelope. I hit with club;” to the complicated like Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species;” to the sublime like Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” help us get through our days, weeks, months and years.
Without stories we’d be back pre-stone age, but through stories … and our ability to understand them, repeat them, share them, add to them or alter them … we rocket to the moon!
We owe a lot to stories … which is precisely why we need to be careful with them, and wary of them. We need to re-visit our stories from time to time. We should critically examine them for their relevance to our lives … for as much as they help us, they also lay behind some of the most hideous chapters in the human experience.
That’s why the stories we tell each other, that we pass on, and especially those we tell our children, literally make all the difference in the world … for if we’re not careful, as we learned in the last century’s legacy of unremitting bloodshed and slaughter, the wrong stories can doom us all to a most unhappy conclusion.
So I guess in the final analysis that’s why stories are something to think about.
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