Thursday, November 19, 2015

Homo Narratus: Thinking About The World Through Story

Every now and then I run across something that makes me stop, think, and digest.  I have been doing that for some time now over a couple of books I read.

Story Proof


Story Smart

They were written by a man named Kendall Haven.

Kendall Haven

I've been chewing on these books since I bought them. They chronicle the process by which human beings create their reality through stories.

These books also talk about the best way to create effective stories.

He coins the term 'Homo Narratus', meaning the ape who narrates, or the storytelling ape. Our entire lives are based on the stories we internalize.

Here is a poem called The Storytelling Ape by someone calling him/herself Professor Ian

I've had a book in the back of my mind about storytelling process and craft. I've decided it is time to write it. I got these two books with the intent of adding some context to my thoughts before beginning that book, but those books so altered the way I think about story and brain function, that I still haven't written a word.

Sometimes synthesizing new material is a much slower process than I would like.

This morning, I really didn't think I had anything to say about stories or storytelling, but I saw an interesting article in which someone read something and when they responded to it, their take away was, in fact, the opposite of what the article actually said. Kendall Haven's books came to mind.

We often can only see the story that we expect to see and not the one that actually exists.

Today, our world is still reeling from the events in Paris.

We look at the horror and ask, "How could anyone do this?"

We do not often look at the perpetrators and try to understand what sort of story they must have ingrained inside of them to believe that murder on such a scale is a good idea.

Oh, we come up with a simplistic vision of what it must be, but the truth is we are a very complicated animal. The stories we build up inside are multilayered, and they are entwined with our own experiences, loves, hatreds, fears, hopes and dreams.

There is no easy way to explain why two people suffer the same indignities, depravations, and injustices and one becomes a lawyer and the other a mass murderer.

Despite all of that, there is no justification for the evil we do to each other. None. The people who attacked Paris did not simply wake up and decide to do this thing. Their life stories were twisted long before that moment.

I have always believed that the stories we tell show that we are the same in many ways.

I still believe that.

Now, however, I understand that the stories we believe are the very things that make us so different that sometimes we don't even know how to find language to bridge those gaps.

That doesn't mean we close our eyes, condemn what scares us, and put up walls.

It is past time to face the fact that if we do not try to bridge those gaps, nothing will ever get better.

Yours In Story

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