Why do we tell stories?

In my anthropology classes I learned all cultures tell stories. Why were they everywhere? The earliest were probably teaching tools passing vital information which kept us alive. One example I recall a favorite professor gave during one of his lectures went something like this:

We do not know what kind of language early man had but think about one of our intrepid hunter-gatherer ancestors out in the forest, and Buddy comes along for the excursion. Buddy got hungry so he ate some pretty berries. Then Buddy got cramps, doubled up, made faces and noises, then Buddy died.

Our ancestor shares this information with other members of the tribe and shares the whole scene. That means he included all the noises and faces, that he could not do anything. By involving the effects, eliciting any emotions such as fear, our ancestor engaged his audience. Probably made a more lasting impact than, “Ugh, pretty berry bad.” Highly hypothetical and improbable but it’s a guess.

Our brains have a capacity to generate imagined experiences. It’s why when Tolkien describes a Hobbit Hole, you generate an image. And you can generate more than images, you can generate emotions. Between images, emotions and experience we imagine based on an authors words Horror stories can scare you, adventures can have you on the edge of your seat, or you can laugh at some described bit of humor.

Our minds find ways to relate, to put the story, conscious or not, in a context to which we can relate. The author relates one way, I know what I meant when I wrote a poem or a passage in a story. As the reader/listener you may relate in a completely different manner.

Why? Our life experiences are different. Each of us brings our unique perspectives to the same story. The mind translates into ways allowing each of us to draw a meaning which fits where/when we are in our lives at the time we read it. A personal example would be reading Cather in the Rye by Salinger in High School. When I read it again about 10 years later, I found a very different message. Bet you are recalling a similar experience now.

Not too long ago as life happens, someone told me a piece I wrote spoke to them. The piece was “Daily Options”, a poem about my struggles with Depression I shared in “When the Shadow Sees the Sun: Creative Surviving Depression” a memorial to an author I got to know briefly. Their insight was not what I thought the piece was about, but that is okay. You see, they found a meaning in it based in their life. I was told it helped them make a decision, decide on an option. If I never receive another compliment, that’s the highest you can receive. That it was not what I thought the piece meant is great, that means to me the words were alive and relatable for them

Never worry about what Art and literature is supposed to say. It will speak to all us, if we listen. What Starry Night or Stanger in a Strange Land or Watership Downs says to each of us is a message from the art to us as individuals. I put words on a page, other friends of mine are amazing artists and authors, yet regardless of what we create, it is you, the beholder, who gives us and our work meaning.

Together we are the singers, we are the song, listen to the music and dream as only you can. You are the one who gives it all meaning.

Thank you for reading,


When the Shadow Sees the Sun: Creative Surviving Depression can be found on Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/When-Shadow-Sees-Sun-Depression/dp/1539868877/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489549733&sr=1-1&keywords=When+the+shadow+sees+the+sun


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