I like to think I have one of the oldest jobs in the world. Why? Because if you look back throughout the human era, you’ll see the evident occurrence of storytelling in history. And, for that reason, I’d also like to consider it an element of the human condition: something so intricately linked to humanity, our evolution, and our survival, that I’m not certain what we’d even be (or whether we’d even be here) without it. And, if it is a part of the human condition, then it would make sense that storytelling is also something that helps us to thrive and find ourselves in day-to-day life. If so, we could also use storytelling as an activity to engage with ourselves and those around us.
Be human: live for the stories.
Storytelling in history: how we survived and thrived
It began in the days where we (homo sapiens) walked the earth with several other homo species. Each with their strengths and weaknesses, how is it that homo sapiens is the only one left? We certainly weren’t the strongest or smartest of the homo species (the neanderthals beat us there!). And, though we may never know why the other species disappeared, there’s something that helped us, homo sapiens, survive. Some say it was our ability to tell stories, to believe in fictions and communicate them, that pushed us forward.
As Yuval Noah Harari says in his book Sapiens, fiction allowed us to imagine and work together in large numbers, even communicating with strangers. It gave us the ability to pass on messages, share tips for survival, warnings of dangers to come, and pass on our knowledge of the world and survival. I’d also like to think that this ability to tell fictions, to tell stories and create human myths, also gave our ancient ancestors hopes, fantasies, dreams, and something to believe. So, storytelling as an element of the human condition? How? Well, it helped us to survive and thrive. It’s part of being human.
Fast forward over the years, and you’ll see the trend of storytelling in history continue. The paintings on the walls of caves all around the globe; legends, myths, religions, and stories of all kinds shared by word of mouth; then, written scripts.
It’s easy to see how communication and stories have changed. What would have been small, intimate groups of people sitting around a campfire many years ago, connecting and expressing one another, is so different to life today. Now, we do it through media: books, plays, films, adverts, religions, schools, education. But, the essence of it, the basic idea that we can believe in united fictions and communicate them, remains.
Connect and tell stories around campfires, just like those in our past.
But, how does this mean storytelling is a human condition?
Well, the human condition is everything that composes the essentials of human existence, including birth, death, emotions, growth … the parts that make us human. If that’s true, that it’s composed of the essentials, and there’s a trend of storytelling in history carrying us forward, helping us to survive and thrive, then I’d like to think that storytelling is so intricately tied to us to be ‘essential’ and a part of the human condition.
Which, explains why many of us enjoy it, right? Stories: telling them, reading them, writing them, listening to them, anything to do with them.
These days, we love writing, books, films, TV shows, and kind of media. Whether you’re into fiction or non-fiction, this communication of information is so intertwined with our evolution that it must be natural for us to enjoy it.
One of the key elements of the human condition is emotion. And, one of the most impressive things about storytelling is the ability to communicate, create, and communicate feelings.
When you’re feeling sad, what do you do? Do you sit and write (maybe a poem or in your journal), do you relax with one of your favourite books, songs, or movies? Is this the same when you’re happy? When you have such exciting news, you can’t help but write or speak about it, or put on a joyful song that makes you dance? Perhaps you’ve read a book or watched a film that has made you laugh and cry? Connecting with media (with stories) is an intimate and emotional process for humanity. So, surely it helps us engage with the human condition?
What’s your story?
That said, many of us these days merely consume the stories of others, rarely giving ourselves the opportunities to create and engage with our own. What is your inner story, and how do you interact with the world? How do you feel when you think about yourself and your place in the world, and how do you communicate with those around you?
It’s something that I didn’t know until I started truly allowing myself to express myself through my creativity: to put my thoughts into words and concepts for my journal or books.
So, I wonder if we can use storytelling and what we know about how it helped us to survive, thrive, and communicate with those around us to engage with ourselves and others in the modern world?
Connect with those around you: share stories
How can you use storytelling as an element of the human condition to help you survive and thrive in life, like our ancestors?
If storytelling in history shows us anything, it’s that storytelling and communication is one of the oldest things in the human era. We learned to survive and thrive and grow and develop together as a race, and it pushed us forward into life as we know it today. So, it makes sense that continuing to engage with it will help us connect as a species and engage with life day-to-day.
Here are a few things you can do to engage with the human condition through storytelling:
Get to know yourself and your emotions through journaling, poetry, or writing in a diary. It doesn’t have to be much; it doesn’t have to even be in a ‘normal diary format’ (I do mindmaps in mine!). But, communicating with yourself and outputting your thoughts into written concepts will help you interact with yourself and learn where you fit.
Share your stories with others. This doesn’t have to be writing a book and telling all about your life, don’t worry. It’s merely about communication and interacting with others. Homo sapiens thrive in groups, and sharing your thoughts and emotions with those around you is a natural part of your life. Like, joking with a friend about tripping up the stairs earlier, teaching a customer how to use a product, and sharing your thoughts about the universe while enjoying drinks with colleagues.
Have a ‘random things’ notebook. Do you ever have random thoughts pop up throughout your day? It’s these little snippets of thoughts and tiny ideas that one day grow into something bigger. Listen to those small, random thoughts just as much as the bigger ones.
Take time for yourself to get to know yourself. This can be quiet time, meditation, going on a walk, taking a bath, dancing to music: anything that allows you to be with yourself and in a space where you have time to think of nothing else. Where do you fit in the universe? What do you think of things? It’s important to give yourself time to learn yourself, or how can you give yourself the time, thought, and life you would want?
What do you think?
As an author and publisher, I do one of the oldest jobs in the world: there’s a strong line of storytelling in history, so much so that I believe it’s a key element to the human condition. What do you think? Where does your story fit in our world? And are you giving yourself the time to learn yourself and your story, and communicate with those around you? I’d love to know your thoughts: comment below or send me a message!