This is by no means a new book. But it crossed my path recently and I found it to be quite a good read. Especially if you are in the business of content creation or storytelling. Whatever format that may be in, videos, text, images etc.
I must admit I had to plough through the first three chapters. But after that it really drew me in. At the heart of the book lies the fact that stories are a way for us, human beings, to understand and break down the world around us. Our brains are constantly working hard to piece together bits of information into coherent stories that give our lives, and what is happening around us, meaning.
In the chapter ‘The mind is a storyteller’ he writes:
The human mind is tuned to detect patterns and, it is biased toward false positives rather than false negatives. According to psychologists, this is part of a ‘mind design’ that helps us perceive meaningful patterns in our environments. Our hunger for meaningful patterns translates into a hunger for story.’
And not just any story. We seem to thirst for stories with happy endings and a good strong moral on which we can base our lives.
But that’s not all. He also explores conspiracy theories. Afterall, they are stories too. They help their readers make sense of the world around them. Of them, he writes ‘conspiracy theories – no matter how many devils they invoke – are always consoling in their simplicity’.
Usually there is a bad guy or guys that need to be defeated for the problem to simply go away. While Gottschall does not delve into the heart of conspiracy theories, I find that his ideas do offer some insight into the rise of conspiracy theories. Particularly now, with social media laying bare all the sufferings from around the world we need a bad guy to vanquish to make everything better. Quickly.
This book offers a deep insight in the mind of a storyteller i.e., every human being. Every minute of our lives are embroiled in stories of our own making or those we’ve learned from books, the internet, tik-tok or youtube. So, it is a good read for those of us who are creating stories to draw in people so that they can take positive action – whether that is towards mitigating climate change or supporting human and animal rights.
What I primarily took away from this book was just how intrinsic storytelling is to our living experience, right down from the caveman with their paintings to us with our books and blogs. The medium may change by the need for stories will not. Without stories we simply cannot exist.