By Eleanor Shelton
Originally posted March 06, 2020
I’m sitting at the airport waiting to board my first of four work trips this month. As I look around, so many people are sniffling, coughing, and blowing their noses. I wonder how many people have coronavirus. Probably all of them. I know for sure the coworkers who will be sitting next to me have it because she’s coughing and feverish. I’m going to try very hard not to breathe.
But let’s say that coronavirus does decimate the population (which it won’t), all-digital operations cease, and only Bear Grylls and others with strong survival skills remain. What will be the most venerated aspect of humanity? Storytelling.
In Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, she describes how humans are hard-wired for storytelling. Our ancestors used it to learn from others what to do, what not to do to survive.
At the beginning of civilization, stories were an essential part of daily life. At the end of civilization (coming no time soon), storytelling will be the last part of humanity to fade away. In a Time Magazine article from December 5, 2017, storytelling is what makes us human. It’s what teaches us empathy, friendship, cooperation, explains the culture, customs, and social norms.
If you were an excellent storyteller back in our hunter-gatherer days, you were the caveman version of a rock star. You would likely attract the healthiest partner to produce superlative children.
Stories are the basis for most religions. Paul, the Apostle, may have been one of the best storytellers in recorded history. The stock market soars or tanks on stories, and there have been flood myths for many thousands of years. Like the game, telephone, the event gets more intricate in each retelling.
From the Epic of Gilgamesh, written 4000 years ago, to comic book superheroes of today, stories bind humanity and even give us an evolutionary advantage.
So, if good storytellers attracted the fittest partners, then it seems to follow that if you are a good storyteller, you might have the most robust DNA. If we continue down that path, good storytellers will likely be able to withstand the coronavirus.
If this virus continues unchecked…due to evolution, we may be the last ones standing. Indeed, storytelling is a superpower.