Story of Evolution

Theory of evolution….

Could it be that stories were the catalyst for humankind’s rise?

Think about it. What really separates us from the rest of the animal world?

Thumbs? Overrated.

Cognitive thinking? We’ve all seen other mammals and even other species display reasoning skills, and we’ve seen the movies where just a little push puts them on top and us on the bottom…Planet of the Apes – in all its iterations for one.

We certainly kill our own and foul our nests…so it can’t be that….

Stories, I’m convinced, were the primal force. The stimulus. The spark.

Our earliest ancestors were huddled together in some dark place…deep in the night…fearful…when one of them started telling a story…the others listened…up until now language had been about immediate survival…warnings….calls for help…coordination for hunting. This was new. Different. Maybe the story was about the stars…perhaps the Great Bear…maybe it was about the fire they had seen burst from a tree struck by lightning…or, maybe it was a story about where they came from.

That first story changed them. As their clan grew and broke apart the story went with them, and as time passed it changed and continued to change. But no matter how it changed – they owned it. The story was theirs and no other animals had that. It made them different. Stronger.

Stories united them. It helped chase away the night terrors. It gave them reason to go on and it gave them reason to share and grow. Stories made and make us human.

I mention the stars and the Great Bear because diverse cultures and people have traditions and stories tied to the notion of the stars as celestial beings.

There was of course the story of the Gilgamesh – perhaps the oldest recorded story ever – originally written on the then newest technological innovation – the clay tablet – in that latest of software code – cuneiforms. A story that reverberated through other cultures and religions over time – changing; adapting; reforming to meet the needs of place and time.

Storytelling is as old as we are and will last longer than any mere technology used to enhance it – as we evolved from simple word of mouth (actually we haven’t…still the most powerful) to cave walls to clay tablets and papyrus to paper to film to digital to whatever….

In fact, I’d argue that when you get down to it, stories drive technological advancement. The Romans built the best roads the world has ever seen (certainly true today…) to share the “stories” (read news) from their far-flung empire. Post roads and riders were just that – sharing the stories of people. Explorers went out into the unknown to learn new stories and the telegraph and telephone were about sharing stories. Even commercial aviation began as a means of sharing stories (mail) and the Internet exploded because of shared stories and the need to share more.

That is why I have had such a good week here (where I am writing from) at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity…because just about every speaker and every media company and every thought leader spoke about stories and storytelling.

Bottom line – we have finally left that place where technology was seen as the communication – the medium is the message if you will – and have come back to our human space where the message is the message and technology enhances it – helps us share it more efficiently and effectively – add value and sizzle to it – but at its heart; in its core – it’s the story that resonates; that is powerful; that drives the connection and the sharing.


“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”  Muriel Rukeyser

So I recommend that you look at some of the best stories being told today – follow the link to the Festival website and enjoy – some you will like; some you will hate; some you might scratch your head and wonder about – but these stories are what makes us human…

Most importantly remember:

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”  Sue Monk Kidd

Remember who you are and why we are here – tell stories…

What do you think?

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