In a recent article in the New Yorker, Maureen O’Connor discussed the value of centuries-old navigation. Of how people from different cultures have used stars, tides, ocean currents, and songs (yes, songs!) to find their way across deserts and oceans and mountains.
Finding Our Way–With Stories
While other animals may use inherent physiological tools to find their way–bats (echo location), pigeons and spiny lobsters (brain magnets)–we humans, like bees and ants (who give directions via danced and scented stories respectively), use cultural tools, often conveyed in stories. Different cultures, different wisdom and methodologies.
Now, perhaps, with smartphones and GPS, and in the absence of a zombie apocalypse, that’s no longer necessary (though still kind of awesome). Yet that same technology makes the passing down of centuries-old knowledge and wisdom in stories–not just within a culture but across cultures–easier. Google, for example, continues to digitize all of mankind’s written knowledge and stories. All of it.
Think about it.
It’s never been easier to learn from each other, to learn from the Diversity now available to us. Some societies and cultures really know how to keep peace. Some have awesome skills at resolving conflict. Some simply know how to be happier. Some really know how to make moments special. Some emphasize styles of learning–like the scientific method–that make more learning possible. Some have characters who can inspire us–for example, Ibn Battuta, a 14th century Moroccan Islamic scholar, managed to travel all over the world using only his great manners and ability to put people at ease.
And where does most of this knowledge reside? In the stories we tell–with words, with dance, with art, with drama (but let’s skip the story-telling with scents).
Share and connect–help build a Bliss community
What age-old wisdom do you think we should take note of? What old stories do you think we can learn from?