Why Life Is All About Storytelling

Why Life Is All About Storytelling

It's not just the stuff of fiction.
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I write a lot about stories. This may seem like some weird fixation, but it has more to do with the way I view the world. In one way or another, most human activities are a form of storytelling. Stories help us to understand the world around us, and our place in it.

History

The similarity between the words history and story is pretty obvious, but the linguistic connection goes much deeper. Both history and story are ultimately derived from the Latin word historia, itself a loanword from Greek. In Latin, Historia could be used to refer to both factual accounts of the past and fictional narratives. This passed into French as estorie, and from there it passed into Middle English in the 14th century. There wasn’t a clear distinction between history and story in English until over a century later.

Rather than being an entirely separate discipline, history is largely a form of storytelling, one that attempt to accurately convey the truth about the past. Some of the most valuable information we have about the past is from what people wrote down, i.e. the stories they told. Some of these documents are court records and royal decrees, but even the fiction of the past offers a wealth of information about the ideas and practices of the societies that produced them. History is really about telling or encountering stories to figure out what happened in the past and how it has influenced the world.

Religion

While holy books primarily exist to teach and instruct people about a particular religion, many of them are narrative based. Rather than laying out the basic tenets of the faith concisely, as a Wikipedia article might do, they typically embed their teachings in stories. Even in religions without a clear canon of literature, there are significant stories that form the backbone of adherents’ beliefs.

Storytelling is a key component of religious teaching. In Jewish Rabbinical tradition, there is a type of story called midrash, which speculatively expanded upon the Hebrew scriptures. Midrash wasn’t considered the authoritative interpretation of scripture, but rather a method to offer differing interpretations of ambiguous stories. Each Rabbi could approach the same story, like the creation of Adam and Eve or the Exodus, and write their own midrash to express their perspective of the original story. Storytelling is also very significant in the Christian gospels, which contain both narratives about Jesus and the parables of Jesus. In fact, most of Jesus’ teachings in the gospels are told through parables, rather than sermons.

Politics

The present election season in America, like most others, is all about narrative. It’s not enough to say that unemployment is bad, or that ISIS is dangerous, because people aren’t compelled by statements of the obvious. The public doesn’t need to be told what problems they face, because they have to deal with those problems every day. The politician need only identify what problems people are most concerned, and then decide what caused those problems, what will happen if our problems go unchecked, and how to solve the problem. Bonus points if they can tell us how bad the country will get if we vote for their opponent.

In basic storytelling terms, Act 1 establishes a problem, Act 2 shows the consequences of that problem, and Act 3 resolves the problem. Cause, effect, solution. This is exactly what politicians do whenever they want to win an election. Ultimately, whichever narrative resonates with the most people determines who is elected. Just like storytelling, it helps to come up with an antagonist. For Bernie Sanders, this was the “one-percenters,” for Trump it’s been immigrants and anyone he perceives to be politically correct, judging by Clinton’s recent comments, it seems to be anyone she perceives to be bigoted in her case. Humans are predisposed towards looking for stories, and it’s a candidate’s job to try to make themselves the protagonist of the story that people perceive in the affairs of the their nation.

Memory

As much as storytelling shapes the world around us, it is ultimately in our own minds. We like to think of our memories as an objective record of our past, but our memories can change quite easily. Take deja vu, for instance, a feeling that most people have experienced. In a theory put forward by Robert Efron, deja vu is caused when the brain incorrectly categorizes a present experience as a memory, something he called Dual Processing. You feel as though you’re remembering something even as you experiencing it, creating a bizarre sensation. Memories can be altered in other ways, sometimes simply by being revisited. Replaying an event repeatedly in your head actually makes it less accurate, meaning that some of your most vivid memories are probably somewhat embellished. There’s a fantastic Batman-themed video about this phenomenon that you can find here.

As much as we’re inclined to trust them, memories don’t necessarily give us an accurate image of our past. Memories are really just stories we tell ourselves to make sense of who we are. They’re not a perfect source of information, but we need them to develop an identity, a sense of continuity with our past selves. Stories define who we are and how we understand ourselves, which makes them one of the most important parts of our lives.

There are plenty of other ways stories shape our lives. Court cases are essentially storytelling contests, and the judge or jury decides which is most convincing. We only know about places we’ve never been to because we’ve been told about them. When you first learned to read, I’ll bet it was through picture books. It’s not so easy to separate real life from stories, once you realize that stories have given you just about everything you have.

Cover Image Credit: Albert Bierstadt

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I'm A Woman And You Can't Convince Me Breastfeeding In Public Is OK In 2019

Sorry, not sorry.

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Lately, I have seen so many people going off on social media about how people shouldn't be upset with mothers breastfeeding in public. You know what? I disagree.

There's a huge difference between being modest while breastfeeding and just being straight up careless, trashy and disrespectful to those around you. Why don't you try popping out a boob without a baby attached to it and see how long it takes for you to get arrested for public indecency? Strange how that works, right?

So many people talking about it bring up the point of how we shouldn't "sexualize" breastfeeding and seeing a woman's breasts while doing so. Actually, all of these people are missing the point. It's not sexual, it's just purely immodest and disrespectful.

If you see a girl in a shirt cut too low, you call her a slut. If you see a celebrity post a nude photo, you call them immodest and a terrible role model. What makes you think that pulling out a breast in the middle of public is different, regardless of what you're doing with it?

If I'm eating in a restaurant, I would be disgusted if the person at the table next to me had their bare feet out while they were eating. It's just not appropriate. Neither is pulling out your breast for the entire general public to see.

Nobody asked you to put a blanket over your kid's head to feed them. Nobody asked you to go feed them in a dirty bathroom. But you don't need to basically be topless to feed your kid. Growing up, I watched my mom feed my younger siblings in public. She never shied away from it, but the way she did it was always tasteful and never drew attention. She would cover herself up while doing it. She would make sure that nothing inappropriate could be seen. She was lowkey about it.

Mindblowing, right? Wait, you can actually breastfeed in public and not have to show everyone what you're doing? What a revolutionary idea!

There is nothing wrong with feeding your baby. It's something you need to do, it's a part of life. But there is definitely something wrong with thinking it's fine to expose yourself to the entire world while doing it. Nobody wants to see it. Nobody cares if you're feeding your kid. Nobody cares if you're trying to make some sort of weird "feminist" statement by showing them your boobs.

Cover up. Be modest. Be mindful. Be respectful. Don't want to see my boobs? Good, I don't want to see yours either. Hard to believe, I know.

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13 Quotes For All Of Us Empowered Female-Identifying People Out There

For the days when you need to be reminded that you are really doing the dang thing and doing it well.

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For the days when you need to be reminded that you are really doing the dang thing and doing it well.

1. Do you really need someone else's permission, acceptance, wink, or nod, or are you ready to give these to yourself? -The Universe

I get notes from the Universe everyday and all of them are so amazing and inspiring. There might be a few of them on this list. You can sign up for your own notes from the universe here.

2. The princess saves herself in this one. -Amanda Lovelace

The quote is based off a book called The Princess Saves Herself In This One, which is a collection of poetry about resilience, you can get the book here.

3. I'm made of more than you think. -Snow White, Mirror, Mirror

4. Other people's perception of you ain't none of your business. -Lisa Nichols

CLAPPING HANDS EMOJI.

5. Do you realize how many events and choices that had to occur since the birth of the universe leading to the making of just exactly the way you are? -Mrs. Which, A Wrinkle In Time

I love this because it really hits home how so many right and wrong decisions led to the creation of you and how you should appreciate the good and the bad because without either of them you wouldn't be exactly who you were supposed to be.

6. You can't stop what's done to you. You can only survive it. -Rachel, Georgia Rule 

This brings up an important theme of my life that I'm still trying to figure out. The only thing you can control in your life is how you react to what happens to you.

7. Don't let anyone ever make you feel like you don't deserve what you want. -Patrick Verona, 10 Things I Hate About You

8. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. -Queen Clarisse, The Princess Diaries

9. No trifling of the past, no matter how great, can tarnish the brilliance of eternity. -The Universe

10. People who are insignificant to your future shouldn't have an impact on your present.

Someone once told me this, and although I can't remember the person, this quote has always stuck with me.

11. Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before. -Lady Gaga

You know what... I think she was talking about you.

12. Tell yourself it's easy. Tell yourself often. Make it an affirmation. Eat, sleep, breathe it, and you life shall be transformed. -The Universe

13. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. -Mark Twain 

Go on then, be empowered and trust your instincts, you've got big things coming... I can tell.

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