Ever since humanity has had a voice, we have shared stories. For a long time people gathered around the campfire to tell each other about past and present, to pass on wisdom and traditions and to entertain each other. How different is that nowadays. Everyone sits behind their screen, shut off from the rest. Do we still need stories?
Time and again we experience that children, young people and adults really enjoy listening to a good story. The Amsterdam Storytelling Festival, which has now been in existence for eleven years, is still growing with a large number of sold-out venues in 2018 and 2019. The Mezrab, the Amsterdam story stage for a wide audience, is packed every evening for several evenings and also the stories in the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA) (Public Library Amsterdam) may look forward to a growing interest. But what is the reason that we keep longing for these stories?
Stories have been around since humanity developed speech. They have always been a way to convey wisdom, information and traditions and to explain the inexplicable.
Stories confirm the identity. It is for a reason that there are a number of important origin stories in which the mythical history of a country, people or region comes to life. Fairy tales came about at some point, usually with the aim of teaching children something. But also folk tales, sometimes to keep people on the right track, sometimes to frighten them. And then there are religious stories, the great books of the three monotheistic Religions and all other stories from all parts of the world.
Although stories about the other are indeed used to spread fear, it is a fact that sharing stories with each other leads to connection. “The enemy is the one whose story you don’t know”, Gene Knudsen Hoffman said years ago and she was right. In doing so, she underlined the importance of sharing stories and listening to each other, certainly in a society characterised by diversity and mutual differences (and sometimes even tensions).
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