The Metaphor in our Stories

We partake in the art of storytelling every day. Whether it's talking to some friends or watching a movie. Stories have been an integral piece of the puzzle, and how we have evolved into the species we are today.

But why is that? You might ask. Well, if you look at the stories that have been told through millenniums, I think you could come to the same conclusions I have.

In my experience, there are two reasons we tell our stories, whether true or fantastical.

The first and probably more important reason is to teach lessons to those who come after us. Throughout time, the survivors of famine, war, and all other tragedies tell us the tales of what happened to them, and how they survive.


Many people are attracted to these stories, because our survival instincts understand that this information may be vital one day. Even though the scenarios are unlikely, our minds state that because it has happened before, it can possibly happen again. It's like the saying goes, "History repeats itself." Especially when it is ignored.

We take these lessons in, hoping to prevent this from happening. And a lot of times, we succeed both collectively and individually.

I mean, when you think about it, humanity has made amazing changes through storytelling. The horrible stories of abuse and negligence, and what they have caused, have been a constant reminder of what can go wrong when we ignore the outside world. The stories of redemption and heroism remind us of the good we can do when we put our best selves forward. And when you hear stories of those standing up for what is right, you feel empowered and determined to do the same.

Our own personal stories of redemption and fortune are an inspiration as well. When we share what we have gone through with another, and they tell of their life adventures, there is an equal exchange of information. Most of the time, this information teaches us as individuals the cause and effects of our behaviors toward others. They can help us learn how to handle certain behaviors from others as well.

As this process continues from generation to generation, changes happen in the collective that become increasingly obvious as time goes on. A perfect example is slang. Not only is it a change in the makeup of the spoken word, it is also a change in how humanity adheres to certain topics.


This ties into the second reason humanity is so reliant on storytelling. And that is in the constant use of metaphors.

When we don't understand something, we seek to understand it. And the best way for humans, normally, to understand something unknown is to compare it to something known.

This teaches us the paradox of absolutes and relativity. We see that certain behaviors lead to certain results, though there are exceptions.

We also see how circumstances can bring out both the best and the worst in us. It is painted in a very obvious picture when we tell stories of two people (whom had similar life experiences) exhibit completely opposite behaviors. Then we throw in the concept of who is right and who is wrong, and we teach ourselves and others how to be human.

When we finally understand these concepts, we then try to figure out how to explain them. But because no one understands information in exactly the same manner, we have to find ways to share it in a manner that everyone can understand.

Another instance where metaphor comes into play. We take the concept, and place it inside a story. That is because stories are our universal language.

Through the story, we explain how our concept works. We tell of someone learning the lesson that we ourselves have just learned, in a fantastical way or dramatic way or scary way. This method truly entrances the audience, making them ponder it as they move forward through their day-to-day activities.

This, though, is sometimes dependent on how well the audience is able to connect the two. Many of those who think philosophically will tell you that how you think of something effects what you know of it.

When you are doing something average, yet see yourself in a story with dramatic flair, you are placing a new perspective onto the activity. With this new perspective, you can find yourself discovering a new idea or even learning something about it.

This brings about the process of telling and retelling stories. And sometimes even the changing of stories.

As time goes on, we as a species tend to remove what we don't like in our lives and replace it with what feels right to us. This happens on an individual level as well, as we will fill our lives with what we like personally, and ignore what displeases our personal beliefs.

This can lead to conflict, then conflict resolution, and then once again to storytelling of the lesson learned.

In our lives, both individually and collectively, we see these cycles happen over and over. We see the story change as more people speak and hear of it. We see perspectives change as they compare themselves to others. And we realize the absolutes of life, through the stories that stand the test of time.


During your next movie outing, or while reading your next book, really think about what you are seeing and hearing in your mind. Focus in on what each character means to you, and why that is. Ask yourself why you are drawn to certain personalities.

Then take that information with you as you move on to the next minute of life. As you do your chores or run your errands, keep in mind what you have seen and heard. Imagine your life playing out in that genre.

And when you do, be amazed at what you might learn.

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