The truth is that I’m obsessed—obsessed with stories, with what they are and how to tell them. Why is it that, as our minds and bodies have evolved, as entire species have vanished and continents have shifted, our need to tell and to hear stories has remained constant throughout human history? What is it that makes human minds yield helplessly to story?
What else has remained so unchanged throughout human history than our desire to hear and to tell stories? Entire species and biomes have vanished; continents have shifted. Yet, there is a cave, deep in the rocky bowels of France, that guards one of the oldest collections of cave paintings ever discovered. These paintings, dating nearly 40,000 years old, may depict simple images—cattle and horses—but they reveal a monumental truth about our species: we have always been and always will be storytellers. It is, perhaps, the one trait unique to and universal among human beings.
But there is a paradox here. I’ve always been, in some ways, a storyteller. In high school, I self-published two novels and forced them upon my teachers and schoolmates like Girl Scout cookies. In college, I wrote for a newspaper and tutored students across the country. And for the past several years, I’ve written and produced films and videos for local companies. Stories have provided me with a living; yet, until recently, the concept of story was an elusive one.
There are paintings scattered through the Serra da Capivara National Park in Brazil that were painted nearly 30,000 years ago.
There are ancient, rocky galleries scattered throughout the Serra da Capivara national park, whose 30,000-year-old paintings reveal a monumental truth about our species: our desire for stories is ancient, primal, and insatiable. We all indulge in the telling and hearing of stories; yet, try to define what a story is and how one works, and you’ll stammer. Most of us will.
Yet, story remains as elusive of a concept as black matter; try to define what a story is and how it works, and you’ll stammer.
As species have vanished and continents have shifted, as our minds and our bodies have evolved throughout the course of human history, our desire to tell stories has remained constant.
There is something incredibly paradoxical about human beings and storytelling. Our desire for stories is primal and insatiable. There is a cave, deep in the rocky bowels of France, that guards one of the oldest paintings yet discovered.
and has remained insatiable throughout the course of human history. Yet, try to define what a story is and how it works,
You’ll find a cave in France, deep in the rocky bowels of the BLANK mountains, that guards one of the oldest collection of cave paintings yet discovered, dating more than 40,000 years old. The paintings, drawn with BLANK, may depict a simple images—a rhino, a lion—but they reveal one powerful truth about mankind: that we have always yearned to hear and to tell stories.
Imagine you’re a BLANK in the Paleolithic Era, travelling across what, in 40,000 years, will be known as the mountains of France. High up on a limestone cliff, you spot a dark, craggy hole—the entrance to a cave.
Imagine you’re a BLANK 40,000 years ago, in the Paleolithic Era, chased by hunger and thirst and disease when not by the elements. Yet, despite the risks—despite the constant attention basic survival demands from you—you climb high up the face of a limestone cliff and crawl deep into the small, lightless cave you spotted from a distance. You have with you a BLANK (torch) and BLANK (paint). You stop, maybe two-hundred feet into the cave, where the passages are narrow and the air thin.
Despite the daily struggle for survival, whoever it was that painted those images thought it was worth the risk.
Two years ago, when me and my business partner went our separate ways, I found myself with what seemed like nothing. For years it had been my dream to side by side with him; and now, he was gone. I was left searching somewhat aimlessly for a path. Storytelling, like in the breadth of human history, has remained a constant love of mine. I strive to understand it.
Story seems to be as valuable to us as food, or air, or water. It serves no purpose in the function of life, yet, without it, life is meaningless. Two years ago, I was possessed by the need to understand—to understand what stories are, why they’re so witching, and how to tell a great one. My theory is this: the better I can understand story, the better I can harness its power. What I’ve learned is that the art of storytelling—the science, really—possesses principles we can leverage to capture the minds of the people around us, across any medium. No matter what you’re doing—producing a film or a writing novel; developing a brand or building a website—stories teach you to create an experience.