Monday, May 10, 2010

Are We Hardwired for Storytellling and for Believing?

Are We Hardwired for Storytelling and for Believing? Draft 3.0

I have come to believe that we are hardwired both or storytelling and for believing. Here is why.

The earliest record of human storytelling is found in the ceremonial burial sites where tools and weapon were placed with human remains. Early humans began to believe that death , so quick and common, was not final but a stepping stone to another After World, where such implements would be needed.

As myth and story grew and developed, those individuals and tribes who had the better stories had a “leg up in the struggle for survival. That warrior or tribe who went into combat believing in the superiority of its belief had the edge.

Myth making and storytelling became critical not only to survival against all odds but in the development of tribal culture that nurtured a sense of identity and tradition. If our forefather were braver, then we would also be braver. Practices became rules and a tribal culture developed that nurtured the young.

Generically, humans needed myth, story and belief in order to survive, but also to develop the cultural story that promised survival and success. Over coming the monster and Rags to Riches stories are the most common among all ancient cultures. These stories, curiously enough, are the ones that children today still crave and ask for.

As the practice of myth making and story tellings developed, those tribes with the best stories tended to prevail. Storytellers became the original shamans, best imaginers of how we can and will cope and conquer. Storytellers were the original culture creating agents of primitive society, shaping and inspiring human endeavor.

Those tribes believing the gods were with THEM had the advantage going into battle against rival tribes. . Maybe it was whose god-stories were the most powerful, the most inspiring. That body of scripture known by Christians s the Old Testament and by Hebrews as the Torah helped that small and insignificant tribe not only survive against all odds but prevail in the ancient world against great empires.

Can we not conclude that genetically we are programmed to find and follow those stories that nourish the heart, give hope, and offer sustenance for surviving against odds?

If you do not believe we humans are not programed, hardwired for certain stories, then you have never asked a primary grade whether they want to hear a story about a monster. They not only want a monster, they want a big monster, actually one big enough to stretch their imagination and even scare them a little This phenomenon is so universal, it must be genetic, the result of millions of years of overcoming numerous “monsters” threatening survival. .

Do not our hearts look for hope, love with a story promising adventure and reward? We want to believe. We need to believe. Research shows we are happier and healthier when we have a belief system supporting love, trusting and gratitude. Measurably so (Emmons, Thanks..)and

The history of Western civilization seems to prove this point. Those cultures, Greek, Roman, Hebrew which had the great stories were the ones which have and continue to influence the West.

Our lives have no meaning without story. Who are we? Why are we here? What is it all about? Can we find love? What shall I do with this one great gift that is my life, my existence?

We cannot live without story, without belief of some sort. Certainly we will not survive unless our stories help us cope with the setbacks to our hopes and dreams, the dark forces around and within us? Belief itself, as much as story is necessary for us to find hope and love, reason to not give up, to see the glass as half full. The tragedy of suicide is the failure of belief and story.

Consider only briefly those stories that have nurtured our society, those of the the Hebrews, the English, and our American origins. Consider the story catchers: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln.

We are hardwired, I propose, for story and belief.

These stories were and still are only our beginnings.
So... have you found your own story yet? That heart song that whispers to your soul: yes, you can, Yes, you will, Yes to love and courage, and to forgiveness?

Ah. Maybe some of the adventure still awaits you!


Emmons, R. A. Thanks. Houghton Mifflin, 2007


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