It can be said that the moment humans could communicate, they told stories. It is this ability to tell stories that makes us truly unique among life on this planet. Physically, humans are weak, slow, and exposed. In order to survive, humans had to use mental strength to plan and coordinate hunting, create efficient tools for hunting, and be able to foretell the future.
Many animals work together when they hunt, and many animals use tools, but only humans are able to foretell the future. This is done through a combination of tracking and being intimately aware of animal behavior. With these two abilities, humans can foretell where an animal will be so that it can be caught. Learning to track and having an intimate knowledge of several species of animals and habitats requires tremendous mental strength. Passing all this knowledge from one generation to the next requires storytelling.
The Importance of Storytelling
Since the first storytellers, the amount of information humans have amassed and the technologies with which we can store and access this information is staggering to say the least. We are now able to read millions upon millions of books in a hundred or so languages. We can watch stories on TV and in movies. There is theatre and music and radio. Now, there is the computer and the internet. Many of us utilize most of these forms to better ourselves and others. But lately, in our society, something has been missing.
While the ways in which stories can be recorded, saved, and accessed has grown, the actual human interaction of storyteller to audience has all but disappeared. And, to be quite frank, there is a level of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual interaction in the storytelling tradition that is unparalleled. Since storytelling is such core element of our beingness, we can long for it without even knowing it is the storytelling we long after.
The Evolution of Tradition
The stories of indigenous people have within them the learning of “the way” in which human beings interact with each other and the world around them. This “way” is fundamental and applicable to all facets of indigenous life.
Our modern culture has, for the most part, forgotten this “way.” Since our capabilities have expanded so quickly, the evolution of traditions teaching us of “the way” have been unable to evolve. For the most part, the stories of indigenous cultures do not seem applicable to the modern environment.
There are some people, for some reason, who have the ability to interpret these ancient stories into forms understandable to people in the modern culture. They are poised to usher in a new era of storytelling.