Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Storytelling is important

The Words of Wisdom this week are Storytelling is Important. Storytelling includes the production of tales, myths, books and, importantly for us, plays and films. Anything with a narrative.

The human mind has a very strong tendency to perceive pattern, even where none really exists: we see the stars forming constellations, we see a face in the froth on a cup of coffee, we make a choice of lottery numbers although the machinery is designed to make every number equally likely to appear. It's the way we organise our thoughts and also our actions. Pattern.

Events in a real or imaginary life are thus turned into a narrative that makes them have meaning for us. That is story. And the remarkable fact is that every single culture on Earth has story as part of its inheritance, story told or acted out, often at great cost. It must, therefore. be of great value to a society to have this, because otherwise cultures not spending so much on story would take over from those burdened by its cost and the energy involved in producing it.

So what is the advantage of having story? It is surely because story enables us to transmit values, morals and customs and to handle change. Without it and its continual renewal, our society would fall apart and decay. That's why plays and films (and music incidentally) are important and a life devoted to them is not a waste of time.

Finally, there are two other phenomena which appear in every culture on Earth, despite their great cost, and which therefore must be of great adaptive value to us. They are religion and sport. Every culture has religion, of one sort or another, and every culture has sport. We'll try and explain this in a future post. Meanwhile, Storytelling is Important.