According to almost everyone’s theory, storytelling has been around as long as humans have. There are, of course, many theories on why humans have a need to tell stories. One of the most touching, to me, is one that is attributed to the great editor Maxwell Perkins, the most famous and beloved editor of the early 20th century who worked with, encouraged, and published the beautiful works of Tom Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and many others. As depicted in the movie Genius, Perkins goes up with Tom Wolfe to the top of a Brooklyn building where Wolfe wrote when he first came to New York, a budding writer with no money but plenty of ambition and dedication.
As they stand on the rooftop of the shabby building overlooking the streets filled with people going so swiftly about their business, Wolfe shows Perkins the scene that inspired him to keep writing despite the numerous rejections. Perkins returns with an idea of his own. “When humans first were on Earth they retired into the darkness of their caves at night. And then someone spoke, and told a story, to keep the others from being afraid of the dark.”
It is possible that many stories keep us from being afraid of the dark, give us courage to go on, inspire us to do good for the world or improve our own lives, remember to be kind to someone else, or just plain give us a chance to dream.
There have been many forms of storytelling. In the beginning, it seems stories would have been shared orally, or depicted on a cave wall which might have been the beginnings of language, later the monks with their beautiful illuminated manuscripts, the printing press, and now technology. But, no matter the format, it seems humans have a need to tell stories. Stories handed down are a way for generations to communicate with each other, to point out that no generation is alone. Each generation feels the others’ happy times, struggles, accomplishments, and pain through stories.
So, when you meet a friend, and you have the urge to relate what happened to you today or the other day, please tell them. Or, when you share the joys and struggles of your day with a loved one or friend, or even a stranger, don’t hold back. For it is storytelling that binds us together, that leaves our voice on Earth for future generations, and leads us to that light that represents that beacon of hope for the future of our planet.