Sunday, January 13, 2013

Response to "The Storytelling Animal"

CC Flickr User Local Studies NSW

Throughout my reading of "The Storytelling Animal," by Jonathan Gottschall,  I could not help but think of religion the entire time. I grew up in a secular household, and am not afraid to identify as an atheist. In large part because of my familial background, and a few classes I have taken here at Michigan, I understand the bible as a book with some of the greatest stories ever written. In a course I took titled "Sociology of Religion," I read different theories to explain why certain groups of people are more religious than others, and why religion exists in itself, despite the lack of evidence. Some of the arguments are similar to those brought up by Gottschall in "Storytelling." The argument I primarily speak of is that which explains storytelling as a distraction from the hardships of real life. While I do believe this is the function of religion (as Karl Marx would also agree), I don't necessarily think that is the only function of storytelling outside of the religious context.

Next, the idea of storytelling as a form of either natural selection or sex selection is completely new to me, and I think both are interesting and compelling theories. Storytelling is so embedded in human culture that I never once thought to think that there is a reason why it both began, and remains in daily life. I admittingly took storytelling fore-granted, and I am happy to have read this article because it gave me the opportunity to stop and try to understand why it is hard-wired in the human psyche at all.

1 comment:

  1. Gottshall has an entire chapter where he addresses the usefulness of what he calls "sacred stories," not in terms of distracting people (the "opiate of the masses" argument that you seem to be referring to), but as a way to organize groups of people in a way that allows them to cooperate with each other, to eschew strictly selfish activities in favor of behaviors that advance the group (for example, an impartial justice system with courts and judges).

    Check out the rest of his book if you're interested in this stuff, it's a great read.