We Are Our Stories

We are made of stories. Okay, we’re made of lots of other stuff, too. Yet, a big part of what makes us human comes from our storytelling past.

The first stories were likely told to help explain our world and often involved supernatural beings. Great gods blew the clouds across the sky, cried to bring the rain, and stomped across the clouds angrily flinging bolt of fire to destroy those who brought down their wrath.

Creation stories helped early humans comprehend their place in a world that no other creature had ever contemplated before us. We knew we existed, but we didn’t know why. We felt love and hate and found comfort in knowing that others felt the same.

Above all else, we faced the ultimate loss of others and eventually ourself through death. Stories helped us deal with our grief at the loss of those we loved and the fear of one day ceasing to exist ourselves.

Every ancient society had particular mythology that, through fantastic tales, helped account for the incomprehensible aspects of our world. Often, one society’s mythology seeped into other, nearby cultures. It’s no coincidence that Greek and Roman gods share similar traits and comparable stories.

Middle Eastern religions all borrowed from one another. Early multi-deity Indo-Asian religions were usurped thousands of years ago by monotheistic teachings by prophets like Zarathrusta (Zoroaster) in ancient Persia, followed by Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. All of these great religions borrowed stories from, and share many beliefs with, their successors. 

The great monotheistic religions all had oral accounts at their fundamental core. The Torah of Judaism was based on centuries of oral histories of creation and tribal succession. These stories were shared verbally and were not written down for centuries. The books of the Christian New Testament were also passed down as parables and tales, until the first letters were written telling the story of Jesus starting 50 years after his death.

Even Islam’s Quran was revealed orally to Muhammed by the angel Gabriel. Unlike other holy books, much of the Quran was transcribed Muhammed’s peers contemporaneously, although some were compiled after Muhammed’s death from the memories of the prophet’s companions.

The core beliefs of billions of people exist because of stories told over thousands of generations. Our understanding of the human condition and how others live comes from tales told by those who preceded us. We could not be who we are today without shared stories.

Don McDonaldComment