For thousands of years people have told stories about sad things, happy things, miraculous things, and everything in between. Stories are an amazing thing whether they be fiction or fact, because stories help us understand ourselves and the situations that we find ourselves in.
At its core, a story is really just a sequence of events put in a particular order with specific characters. But because we humans are rational creatures the specifics create a context through which we understand why and how people fit together. And because we are emotional creatures, we then start to care about what happens next. It’s in the caring, that we invest ourselves in something outside our own specific set of experiences.
In Michael Ende’s novel, “Die unendliche Geschichte” [translated: “The Neverending Story”], the main character reads a magical book which he himself directly affects. When he sneezes, the characters hear it. When he talks, they respond in the narrative. Obviously fiction, this book points to the reality that a good story takes you to a place that is not about you – but it is about you -but it’s not about you – but it really is about you. Stories are a safe in-between place. They are where we can think about a someone or a something that is not directly a part of us, but where we can put the memories of our own experiences into order.
We are not made to memorize lists or unrelated facts. Humans are creatures of context, we are wired to understand and even thirst after narrative. Professional storyteller, Bill Harley, sums up the purpose of stories by telling us that: “stories tell us how we got where we are and how we imagine where we might go.” If we want something to be memorable, it must be story.
Is your family history a story?
Check out Bill Harley’s TEDx Talk for more inspirational ideas about stories:
written by Bessie – Contributing Author
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