The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum (Archive Board)
September 26, 2021, 01:54:11 am *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: This is our Read Only Archive Board (closed to posting July 2011). Join our new vBulletin board!
 
  Portal   Forum   Help Rules Search Chat (Mux) Articles Login Register   *

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
September 26, 2021, 01:54:11 am

Login with username, password and session length
Donate!
The Cauldron's server is expensive and requires monthly payments. Please become a Bronze, Silver or Gold Donor if you can. Donations are needed every month. Without member support, we can't afford the server.
TC Staff
Important Information about this Archive Board
This message board is The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum's SMF Archive Board. It is closed to new memberships and to posting, but there are over 250,000 messages here that you can still search and read -- many full of interesting and useful information. (This board was open from February 2007 through June 2011).

Our new vBulletin discussion board is located at http://www.ecauldron.com/forum/ -- if you would like to participate in discussions like those you see here, please visit our new vBulletin message board, register an account and join in our discussions. We hope you will find the information in this message archive useful and will consider joining us on our new board.
Pages: [1] 2 3   Go Down
  Add bookmark  |  Print  
Author Topic: Why Do People Have To Tell Stories?  (Read 13437 times)
Altair
Adept Member
*****
Last Login:December 18, 2012, 06:59:40 am
United States United States

Religion: Wiccan-ish pantheistic polytheist
Posts: 1942


Follow your star wherever it may lead

Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Topic Start: February 09, 2009, 03:12:46 pm »

I’m not an anthropologist, and I haven’t read widely on the subject…but there seems to be a fundamental human need to have stories. This is in every culture worldwide, ranging from myths (deeply meaningful religious stories about Life, the Universe, and Everything) to soap operas (somewhat less meaningful stories about life, sex, and everything) to comic strips (ditto).

Why?

If you think about it, we could exist perfectly well without stories; we could still eat, sleep, have sex, even if we never heard or told another story. Sure, stories serve various social functions—one function of myth, for example, is to give social cohesion to a group, I believe—but then a wolf pack reinforces its social cohesion by howling at night, no stories required. So why do humans do it with story? Why do we do so many things—entertainment, education, and on and on—through story?

We even tend to edit our experiences selectively—on an individual level, our memories, and collectively, our history—so that they make a tidy story.

Why not accept the chaotic mess as it is, rather than try to impose some narrative order?

If we were ever to meet intelligent aliens, do you think they’d also tell stories? For the same reasons we do?

**************

Attempting to answer my own question: I think it might have to do with the human ability to think abstractly. One of the special features that sets our species apart from the others here on Earth is our ability to make a particular sound or draw a bunch of lines and attach specific meaning to it; this gives rise to language, to math, to symbolism…

Maybe this same feature of our brains gives rise to the need for story as well. If you think of story as human experiences abstracted, it makes sense that our abstraction-specializing brains would crave it.

Or am I wandering completely into the speculative ether here?
Logged

Welcome, Guest!
You will need to register and/or login to participate in our discussions.

Read our Rules and Policies and the Quoting Guidelines.

Help Fund Our Server? Donate to Lyricfox's Cancer Fund?

HeartShadow - Cutethulhu
Assistant Board Coordinator
Senior Staff
Grand Adept Member
****
Last Login:April 15, 2013, 06:53:07 pm
United States United States

Religion: FlameKeeper
TCN ID: GenevieveWood
Posts: 8627


I am the Pirate Teddybear!

Blog entries (0)

WWW
« Reply #1: February 09, 2009, 03:19:38 pm »

I’m not an anthropologist, and I haven’t read widely on the subject…but there seems to be a fundamental human need to have stories. This is in every culture worldwide, ranging from myths (deeply meaningful religious stories about Life, the Universe, and Everything) to soap operas (somewhat less meaningful stories about life, sex, and everything) to comic strips (ditto).


I actually read somewhere, though I can't remember where, that it's the ability to tell stories that really sets us as *different* - because with story, we can speculate "what if".  We can plan ahead and imagine what could be, and we can do it cooperatively.

What we do with it now might not be what it was originally - but the basic underpinning of story is our ability to speculate about the future and talk about the past.  It's the ability to exchange information without having to *see* what we're talking about.

It's what makes us human and not wolves.
Logged




FlameKeeping website: http://www.flamekeeping.org
Tana
Staff
High Adept Member
***
*
Last Login:July 26, 2013, 08:37:48 am
Germany Germany

Religion: I'm my Lady's own
Posts: 3407


fence-riding, free-flowing, shamagic = crazy

Blog entries (4)

WWW
« Reply #2: February 09, 2009, 03:39:00 pm »




I was told - and not by a human being  Cheesy - that: stories are important. People will listen to them and understand things they wouldn't get otherwise. (rough translation of what was said.)

(Btw I'm not so sure animals don't have stories Wink)

Stories touch us in the core if they fulfill some criteria.
That is the reason something like Star Wars or Buffy worked so good - let alone Lord of the Rings which was wrote in the style of great myths on purpose.

It's the essentials in those stories and - funny enough, just wrote about it somewhere else - I believe the really important stories have not changed since the first campfire. They only change the characters and the settings.

So yes - we could exist without stories. Just like we could exist without religion, art, philosophy and so on.
But mind 'to exist' does not equal 'to live' Smiley
Logged

'You had to repay, good or bad. There was more than one type of obligation. That’s what people never really understood.….Things had to balance. You couldn’t set out to be a good witch or a bad witch. It never worked out for long. All you could try to be was a witch, as hard as you could.' Terry Pratchett 'Lords and Ladies'

(The FB button in my profile does not work, if you like go and add me: Tana Adaneth, the one with the Doom Kitty avatar Wink)

Only shallow people know themselves. (Oscar Wilde)
Altair
Adept Member
*****
Last Login:December 18, 2012, 06:59:40 am
United States United States

Religion: Wiccan-ish pantheistic polytheist
Posts: 1942


Follow your star wherever it may lead

Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #3: February 09, 2009, 04:11:43 pm »

I actually read somewhere, though I can't remember where, that it's the ability to tell stories that really sets us as *different* - because with story, we can speculate "what if".  We can plan ahead and imagine what could be, and we can do it cooperatively.

What we do with it now might not be what it was originally - but the basic underpinning of story is our ability to speculate about the future and talk about the past.  It's the ability to exchange information without having to *see* what we're talking about.


That would seem to fit in with the idea that the need for story is linked to the ability to abstract.

Can you recall where you read this?
Logged

Altair
Adept Member
*****
Last Login:December 18, 2012, 06:59:40 am
United States United States

Religion: Wiccan-ish pantheistic polytheist
Posts: 1942


Follow your star wherever it may lead

Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #4: February 09, 2009, 04:15:57 pm »

Stories touch us in the core if they fulfill some criteria.
That is the reason something like Star Wars or Buffy worked so good - let alone Lord of the Rings which was wrote in the style of great myths on purpose.....

So yes - we could exist without stories. Just like we could exist without religion, art, philosophy and so on.
But mind 'to exist' does not equal 'to live' Smiley


I'll grant you most of the above, Tana; I wholeheartedly agree that storytelling is an essential part of being human. That's what makes it so interesting, and why I'm trying to puzzle out why that would be so.
Logged

HeartShadow - Cutethulhu
Assistant Board Coordinator
Senior Staff
Grand Adept Member
****
Last Login:April 15, 2013, 06:53:07 pm
United States United States

Religion: FlameKeeper
TCN ID: GenevieveWood
Posts: 8627


I am the Pirate Teddybear!

Blog entries (0)

WWW
« Reply #5: February 09, 2009, 04:19:40 pm »

That would seem to fit in with the idea that the need for story is linked to the ability to abstract.

Can you recall where you read this?

okay, this is almost embarrassing - it was an interview on the Colbert Report where a guy was trying to sell his book. Cheesy  http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/217078/january-28-2009/denis-dutton is the clip.
Logged




FlameKeeping website: http://www.flamekeeping.org
Starglade
Adept Member
*****
Last Login:April 02, 2012, 03:07:59 pm
United States United States

Religion: Tibetan Buddhist
TCN ID: Starglade
Posts: 1614


Life is a work in progress.

Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #6: February 09, 2009, 04:56:48 pm »

(Btw I'm not so sure animals don't have stories Wink)


If you can, check out Neil Gaiman's "Dream of a Thousand Cats" from the Sandman graphic novels. I think it was in the collection "Dream Country" but don't quote me--I can't put my hands on my copy at the moment. (IIRC it was in the same collection as his treatment of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"--which never fails to make me smile.)
Logged

The source of all misery in the world lies in thinking of oneself. The source of all happiness lies in thinking of others. -- Shantideva

My public transcript is available for viewing.
http://www.brainbench.com/transcript.jsp?pid=7189853
EverFool
Board Staff
Staff
High Adept Member
***
Last Login:September 16, 2011, 12:40:01 pm
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Religion: atheist
Posts: 2960


Blog entries (0)


« Reply #7: February 09, 2009, 05:03:03 pm »

I actually read somewhere, though I can't remember where, that it's the ability to tell stories that really sets us as *different* - because with story, we can speculate "what if".  We can plan ahead and imagine what could be, and we can do it cooperatively.

I suspect that stories are a product *of* the difference, ie consciousness, rather than necessarily *the* difference.  But the imagining etc does tie in with that.
Logged

If anal prolapse teaches us anything, it's that it is what is inside that counts.
Artur
Senior Apprentice
**
Last Login:June 17, 2011, 05:23:05 pm
United States United States

Religion: None. Undefined, Skeptical Theist.
Posts: 85

Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #8: February 09, 2009, 06:05:32 pm »

I’m not an anthropologist, and I haven’t read widely on the subject…but there seems to be a fundamental human need to have stories. This is in every culture worldwide, ranging from myths (deeply meaningful religious stories about Life, the Universe, and Everything) to soap operas (somewhat less meaningful stories about life, sex, and everything) to comic strips (ditto).

Why?


Going back a fair way, I remember a lecture one of my professors gave in which he said something to the effect that humans use stories because we have an understanding of the passage of time.  We see things as they are and need to know how they got that way.  We ponder how things will progress in the future.  We see events, other people, and even ourselves in the context of time, and we build narratives to explain the universe to ourselves.  It's been awhile, but that was the gist of his point, I think.

Interesting lecture.

Logged
SunflowerP
Staff
Grand Adept Member
***
Last Login:September 16, 2021, 05:08:13 pm
Canada Canada

Religion: Eclectic Wicca-compatible religious Witch (Libertarian Witchcraft)
TCN ID: SunflowerP
Posts: 5485


Blog entries (0)

WWW
« Reply #9: February 09, 2009, 06:39:50 pm »

We even tend to edit our experiences selectively—on an individual level, our memories, and collectively, our history—so that they make a tidy story.

Why not accept the chaotic mess as it is, rather than try to impose some narrative order?
<snip>
Attempting to answer my own question: I think it might have to do with the human ability to think abstractly. One of the special features that sets our species apart from the others here on Earth is our ability to make a particular sound or draw a bunch of lines and attach specific meaning to it; this gives rise to language, to math, to symbolism…

Maybe this same feature of our brains gives rise to the need for story as well. If you think of story as human experiences abstracted, it makes sense that our abstraction-specializing brains would crave it.
The phrase that comes to my mind isn't "abstraction-specializing", it's "pattern-seeking".

That's not mutually-exclusive, though; I think there's a very definite relationship at the least, and they could be seen as two ways to say the same thing (what exactly is it that we abstract?  Patterns!).  But I thought I'd throw it in to the mix just to see if it was useful.

Sunflower
Logged

Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs!
I do so have a life.  I just live part of it online.
“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others
to live as one wishes to live.” - Oscar Wilde
My blog "If You Ain't Makin' Waves, You Ain't Kickin' Hard Enough", at Dreamwidth and LJ
Aetius
Master Member
****
Last Login:August 09, 2009, 09:41:56 pm
United States United States

Religion: Hellenismos
Posts: 509


Hellenic Polytheist Revivalist

Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #10: February 09, 2009, 07:22:20 pm »

I'll grant you most of the above, Tana; I wholeheartedly agree that storytelling is an essential part of being human. That's what makes it so interesting, and why I'm trying to puzzle out why that would be so.


I think that whatever gives us the mental ability to tell a good story, might be crucial to our survival in times of extreme stress.
 
Perhaps human females also value good storytelling the same way they value musical ability, leading to many more sexual opportunities for those who cultivate an innate talent for storytelling. This would also lead to lots and lots of kids who receive this ability as part of their genetic inheritance.
Logged

Too bad the Gods can't save me from my own stupidity.
RhiannonWhiteMare
Master Member
****
Last Login:August 22, 2009, 12:05:19 pm
United States United States

Religion: Druidry
Posts: 315


Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #11: February 09, 2009, 09:47:09 pm »


Stories connect us to other humans. They help to bring a community together, to give us a common ground, to help form relationships with other people. Stories make us human. If you travel around the world and collect stories you'll see similarities in them from one culture to another. And even when they get changed they are still valid. For example, the African slaves were brought to the US they brought their myths and folklore with them. That helped to keep their culture alive even under the yoke of slavery.

One of the most important gods from Ghana was Anansi, who was the trickster god, who had the form of a spider as well as a man. When the slaves transported Anansi here to the US he ended up changing gender and name and became Aunt Nancy. When other slaves from Ghana were taken to other countries he changed names again. But he remained the same god, just with different names and some chnages in attributes. These stories were able to connect the slaves who were on the cotton plantations in the US with the slaves who were on the sugar plantations in the West Indies.
Logged

Rigantona, Great Queen
catja6
Board Staff
Staff
Adept Member
***
Last Login:November 28, 2020, 08:41:38 pm
Canada Canada

Religion: Hellenic Pagan
Posts: 1119


Blog entries (0)


« Reply #12: February 09, 2009, 10:30:07 pm »


I think that whatever gives us the mental ability to tell a good story, might be crucial to our survival in times of extreme stress.
 
Perhaps human females also value good storytelling the same way they value musical ability, leading to many more sexual opportunities for those who cultivate an innate talent for storytelling. This would also lead to lots and lots of kids who receive this ability as part of their genetic inheritance.

Because women don't tell stories, or make music, or create art; their role is to gaze adoringly at the male creators and reward them with nookie.   

Most invocations of evolution beyond strict biology were strongly rooted in a desire to give the "100% Mother Nature Approved" stamp to late 19th century hierarchies of gender, race, and class -- and for those who continue to make those invocations, 19th c. gender assumptions, especially, are still clinging on.   
Logged
catja6
Board Staff
Staff
Adept Member
***
Last Login:November 28, 2020, 08:41:38 pm
Canada Canada

Religion: Hellenic Pagan
Posts: 1119


Blog entries (0)


« Reply #13: February 09, 2009, 10:37:26 pm »



Why humans, in general, tell stories, is far beyond my scope of interest and knowledge, and can only ever really be spoken of in the vaguest of terms, or in poetry.  (Though I'm inclined, if pressed, to go with Sunflower's "humans are pattern-recognizing, communicating, and remembering animals.")  I'm a lot more interested in why *this* story, told by *this* person in *this* time and place, is being told -- plus, more chance of being right.  Cheesy   There are absolutely thousands of reasons to tell stories, and I'm much more sympathetic to starting with the specifics, and then going from there, rather than starting with broad generalizations. 
Logged
Finn
High Adept Member
******
*
Last Login:December 22, 2013, 02:30:14 pm
United States United States

Religion: An Seanchas Fior
TCN ID: Finn
Posts: 2754


The world is quiet here.

Blog entries (0)

WWW

Ignore
« Reply #14: February 09, 2009, 10:53:40 pm »


I can't possibly begin to go into this now without going into vague terms or poetry, like Catja says. But I just wanted to say this: story, and the act of telling stories, is the basis of my world-view.

So, thanks for starting this thread, as it's one that's really close to my heart.  Smiley
Logged

Fight evil: read books.

My Spiritual Blog: An Seanchas Fior
My Personal Blog: An Seanchas Finn

Donor Ad: Become a Silver or Gold Donor to get your ad here.

Tags:
Pages: [1] 2 3   Go Up
  Add bookmark  |  Print  
 
Jump to:  
  Portal   Forum   Help Rules Search Chat (Mux) Articles Login Register   *

* Share this topic...
In a forum
(BBCode)
In a site/blog
(HTML)


Related Topics
Subject Started by Replies Views Last post
Favorite Stories from Mythology « 1 2 3 »
Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology
elizwrite 33 15025 Last post June 09, 2007, 01:12:16 pm
by Serenah
Least Favorite Stories from Mythology « 1 2 3 »
Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology
elizwrite 35 14102 Last post May 08, 2007, 09:53:17 am
by Melamphoros
The Stories Behind Your Symbols « 1 2 »
Social Discussion Boards
Ligeia 28 9229 Last post September 06, 2008, 01:27:52 am
by Jericho Gray
Camping Stories Here
Sports and Recreation
Sperran 7 2935 Last post July 09, 2008, 05:31:37 pm
by rose
Love stories buried no longer
Social Discussion Boards
LyricFox 2 2001 Last post February 13, 2009, 08:50:25 am
by LyricFox
EU Cookie Notice: This site uses cookies. By using this site you consent to their use.


Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2006-2008, Simple Machines
TinyPortal v0.9.8 © Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
Page created in 0.108 seconds with 53 queries.