Monday, October 24, 2016

The Evolution of Storytelling

Communication begins without words.

Words come after.

Words come when we depend on each other.

Imagine all of the life that's come before: fish, ants, dinosaurs, birds, cats, dogs.

All of these signal each other.  They work together to find food, find shelter, and to survive in a world of limited resources.

The dependence of one member of the tribe on the others is the beginning of love.

Wolves communicate as they hunt, using the best strategies they can muster to secure food for the pack.  Just as early humans must have.

The first signals would have been from beings exploring for resources: "food, water, shelter is over there". 

At first, pointing would have been enough.  Bees are able to communicate this much.

In conditions of scarcity, more communication would have been helpful: "there is stream over that hill, but there is a bear as well."

What about trade?  Trade would have begun between tribes; resources needed by one tribe would be traded for resources by the other tribe. 

More complex communication would have eventually evolved into stories:  "we hunted in the ravine, were successful in the hunt, camped for a night on the plains, and returned home."

Being able to tell such stories would allow members of the group to leave for extended periods and to return to the full tribe later.

These kinds of story would have the effect of increasing the bond between the members of the tribe.

These kinds of events form the basis of the human love for stories.

We have evolved so that we are constantly telling ourselves stories.  We have an inner monologue.
We are constantly telling others stories.
We are constantly watching or listening to stories.

Real life becomes the story in the evening news. 

Our own life becomes the story in the realm of psychology.

Stories about our tribe become our history.

Stories about our place in the world become our religion.

Stories about the how the physical world works become the story in the physical sciences.

But the world is not a story; we are not characters in a story.

Stories are generally judged on their external and internal cohesiveness -  do the events in the story fit with each other?  Do they fit with the other stories we tell ourselves? Do the actions fit with the characters?

They are NOT primarily judged on how true they are.

So the question becomes:  how far should we trust our story-based thinking?

No comments:

Post a Comment