Storytelling is our Cultural Heritage

(or Why the Novelist Couldn’t Go to the Bathroom)

I’ve been complaining too much lately, so I thought I would try a different approach.

We all tell stories. Some of them are true; most are not. From the time we are little children, our lives are filled with tales of magical creatures, noble heroes, and dastardly villains. We learn by example, entertain ourselves with pleasant lies, and once in a while, we discover a truth about ourselves.

We are all familiar with fictional stories. Drama brings excitement to our sometimes dull lives. Comedy gives relief from worry and stress. The fantasy pull us from our own mundane drudgery to transport us to a world of make-believe where we can imagine what it’s like to be something more than normal.

Some of our stories are literal truths. The cave paintings of early humans detail the struggles and triumphs of the hunt. Biographies tell the tale of one person’s journey through life. In its own way, a scientific paper is a kind of narrative; it describes one narrow slice of reality in exquisite detail.

These are the products of human minds, however. As such, they are coloured by our own perceptions and prejudices. The deer in the cave painting wasn’t really that big. Washington never really chopped down that cherry tree. The newspapers will probably take that scientific paper out of context and draw conclusions that are not there.

That is just human nature. We prefer to take in our information as a sequence of events. We like characters that we can relate to and understand so we can put ourselves in their places. We like to talk about where we are going and where we have been. More than anything, we have a need to share our thoughts and feelings on virtually every topic.

Sound familiar?
Plot, character, setting, theme.

So let’s forgive the occasional embellishment of the facts and agree to take every story with a grain of salt. The lie a child tells when caught with a hand in the cookie jar might be funny enough to earn her a treat. The politician is telling you what you want to hear because you don’t want to hear the truth. Those pants don’t make you look fat.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Crazed recluse and sociophobe who has taken up writing after failing at everything else. Send pizza.

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