The Story of A Story: Review, Reflect and Connect
Once upon a time, there was a cursed village on the hills. It was abandoned ages ago by the villagers, as the curse of the headman of the village plagued the entire village. Before he lit his own pyre he called out each of the villagers “The flame of this fire will feed upon your rotten souls, your roots will burn down to ashes and scorched will be every leaf of your tree. My spirit will haunt this village until it watches the last of your generations burn in hell.” After many years, on a full moon night, a traveler shivering with cold saw a glimmering light from far, somewhere near the cursed village. Unaware of the curse, he started walking towards the light in hope of shelter and warmth. As he was making his way through the ruins, he felt a warm touch of someone’s hand on his shoulder. His feet turned cold as he turned around… This is how, a new myth, a legend or a story is born. How is this beginning?
Billions of stories of millions of people, or the other way round. Why should we need another story? Why do stories matter? How stories are born? Let us review and reflect on how stories connect to us.
Review: Stories and the Dawn of Cognitive Evolution
Yuval Noah Harari in his widely acclaimed book Sapiens: A brief history of humankind points out that it wasn’t spears, but stories that led to the survival and establishment of Home sapiens as the sole human species on the earth. The unique ability to weave fiction, create great myths and legends, fueled the collective imagination of sapiens thousands of years ago, binding them together in the allegiance to the one great myth.
“Any large-scale human cooperation — whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city, or an archaic tribe — is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination.” — Sapiens: A brief history of humankind
Before people knew how to read and write, they preserved their new experiences, the newly discovered scientific know-how, the adaptations for survival, and wisdom to live in harmony as customs through the tradition of oral storytelling. Behind every Dos and Don’ts there was and is a story. From hunter-gatherers to evolved civilizations, societies have been shaped by the stories that survived.
Stories are the most effective tool for communicating information and changing behaviors. This fact is evident from the wide use of stories in sharpening the cognitive skills of children, behavior therapies, business, politics, public relations etc. Stories hold a great importance in the foundation of ancient civilizations and protecting the natural and cultural heritage.
Reflect: The Story of Our Lives
We all read the same story, but its imprint differs with people. How we interpret a story depends on how much it reflects our own reality. Irrespective of the genre, every story has an element of human nature in it. And so, when we read a story, it is given that we put ourselves in the shoes of the protagonist and weave a storyline different from the author’s.
Borrowing from our own bittersweet experiences, unfulfilled desires and expectations we try to change the course of the story in our imagination as we wish it to be. The curiosity and anticipation of our version to be true, keeps us awake days and nights to finish the story.
The possibility of our personal tragedies and comedies may not be that personal, but common to many who are unknown to us, helps us see the big picture of life. The stories on which we laugh, we love and cry our eye’s out, can be someone’s reality. This thought makes us reflect on how we see and treat the people around us. Understanding other’s perspective, being compassionate towards them, choosing our words wisely and being a little forgiving and ignorant of others mistakes can ease the pain and stress in everyone’s life while we fight our own battles.
Connect: Stories form Deep Connections with People.
We come across hundreds and thousands of stories in our lifetime, most of them perish in our memories with time. But some go deeper than the reach of our conscious mind, they are carved in our souls till our very last breath. How we relate to those stories defines how much impact they have on us and so how much longer they are going to stay with us.
“Stories are wonderful creations, that form deep human connections with people. They breathe, age and stay alive as long as the bond remains intact.”
Stories are powerful because they can connect with us and move us beyond our imagination. We read, write, listen and revisit the same stories over time for many reasons. To live a moment of joy, share our pain, get consoled, find inspiration, and sometimes to find a purpose in life.
When Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream” in Washington, D.C, 1963, it echoed in the hearts of people thousands of miles away. And with those words a dream of freedom was born in every heart that was suffering. The story of that dream continues to inspire people to question injustice and stand up for their rights.
Ideas that bring revolutions, pursuits of breathtaking adventure, the agony of endless suffering, gut-wrenching fear, overwhelming love, divine kindness, each of them give birth to a story. They are written for us to feel, to learn and dream of a life, a place, a person or an idea they haven’t met or seen before.
“Stories matter because they make this world a creative, hopeful and a bearable place to live. For thoughts to travel, for knowledge to enlighten the world and for little drops of heavenly happiness to sweeten our bitter lives, stories should be written.”