A core routine of connection, the daily life of our most primal ancestors, once language emerged, centered around the telling of stories.
Storytelling is one of the oldest, grandest of human connection traditions. It incorporates voice, body, imitation, movement, emotion...Is it the original virtual reality? Is it the first form of entertainment? After humans discovered farting. Is there a more primal way to amuse and delight than through story? To tell a story well, you have to be in the present moment, attuned to your audience and able to feel them, and you have to be embodied. You have to learn the rhythm of your language, pacing, timing. To tell story –: it is a grand art. Perhaps its modern equivalents are in STAND-UP COMEDY, or the ONE (WO)MAN SHOW. This form, as a cultural form, is so elementary to our success as humans, because narrative is the vehicle for the conveyance of cultural information, the story the container for human meanings. Give me a list of facts, I’m not so likely to remember them. Embed them in a good story, and I will be unable to forget them. A great story is a memory palace, and a vehicle. A great story takes us someplace else: it transports.
The San Bushmen talk about the STORY OF THE DAY. As a cultural practice, they gather to share the happenings of the day. The men tell of the hunt. They re-enact it. The women tell of the gathering. The children tell their stories. We need to learn to tell stories, and we need to get better at CATCHING STORIES. Children need to have caring adults in their lives who listen to their stories, and ask deepening questions to draw out what is most significant to them. To say, Tell me more about when the dog made that sound... Or, How did that make you feel? Or, What did that remind you of? Dr. Daniel Siegel, the founder of inter-personal neurobiology, observes that our ability to make sense of the story of our own lives is absolutely essential to our own integration, our own well-being. Our stories are hypotheses, conjectures about our experiences, about our lives. We deploy narrative all of the time to shape, contain, and alter meaning. The art of storytelling includes storytelling through other media: JOURNALING, WRITING, MAKING FILMS. A story can be told through MOVEMENT, through DANCE, through a PAINTING, a SCULPTURE. It can be WOVEN, or held in a basket. TRACKING is reading the storytelling of the land. BIRD LANGUAGE is the storytelling of the birds. Is the howling of coyotes not storytelling too?
Video: Distill | Photography: Stein Egil Liland | Licensed from Pexels.com, used with permission.