Man: The Storytelling Animal

Man – let me offer you a definition – is the storytelling animal. Wherever he goes he wants to leave behind not a chaotic wake, not an empty space, but the comforting marker buoys and trail signs of stories. He has to keep on making them up. As long as there’s a story, it’s all right. Even in his last moments, it’s said, in the split second of a fatal fall – or when he’s about to drown – he sees, passing rapidly before him, the story of his whole life.  

– Graham Swift, Waterland

I came across this quote in the book, “The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human” by Jonathan Gottschall, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it. I’ll share more about that book in my next post. But for the meantime, I love the way this quote captures the essence of what it means to be human — and so much of that has to do with telling stories. We seek meaning and make meaning in our lives by means of stories. We tell them, invent them, cling to them.

I heard the wonderful Ohio-based storyteller, Lyn Ford, share an African folktale at a conference a few years ago. The story contained the refrain, “Our lives are our stories.” That story, and particularly those words, have always stuck with me. When we share our lives with others, we are sharing our stories. When we share our stories, we are sharing our lives.

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