Storytelling is what makes us human.
Storytelling is written into our DNA. It's an organic cornerstone to our existence. As Jonathan Gottschall, a scholar who's written at length about the "intersection between science and art", has said:
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
We can't help ourselves. Storytelling is one of our strongest, oldest impulses.
We make up stories to help us carry ourselves through this world in ways that reality can't.
The great lies we've told ourselves—that we've shared across lifetimes, generations, and whole cultures—are the stories that help us arrive at greater truths. These are our myths.
Everyone is familiar with myths. By definition, they are great lies: elaborate stories created to explain something unexplainable, typically via supernatural phenomena and other exciting happenings. For example, some of us here at Story & Heart grew up in Michigan, hearing more than once about the Iroquois myth wherein the Cosmic Turtle supported the mess of mud that soon became the earth. The whole world on its back.
Sounds familiar, right?
More importantly, though, myths bring us, as humans, together.
Myths are stories that are intended to unite us—in belief, in spirit, and, above all, in person.
Unfortunately, too often the idea of the myth is seen as something anachronistic. As modern storytellers, we can't possibly create our own myths, can we? Didn't Joseph Campbell already set basic parts of myth-making in stone long before we even started writing our own life stories? Perhaps superhero sagas are the closest things we have to modern myths, but we can only find those in comic books or blockbuster movies, and who takes those seriously anyway?
Most people (including us) would probably answer, in order: no, yes, and no one.
In lyrical gestures, it tells the story of men who have answered the call to action. Through passion, they become superheroes. While the conflict is seemingly within themselves, and their heroism is in their pursuit more than the result of the endeavors, one ideal brings them together: they are building their own reality.
And boy is it epic.
Myths give us, as storytellers, purpose.
Myths are about seeking truths that we all can share, and then building our world around those truths.
At Story & Heart, we can't think of any better way to tell amazing stories than through making our own myths. Because myths are bigger than us—they are the narratives of our communities.
Based on the relentless drive of "Blood & Oil"—not to mention the heart of every story we seem to have known even before we were born—we believe you can transform your stories into myths as grand as some of the world's oldest.
Here are 3 ways to be a modern-day myth-maker and begin to transform the world.
1. Be a builder.
This one may be obvious. But we don't call ourselves—and everyone in the Story & Heart community—"creators" for nothing.
Building is more than putting blood, sweat, and tears into a project.
Building is about sharing projects, using the tools and support of a community to raise something so much greater than what we could raise alone.
His point was simple: community is inherent to world-building. Storytelling is common ground between us all. Years, days, hours of work are important, but storytelling—that foundation of community—is what will foster the network that will allow the truths of stories to pass on, thrive—and maybe become legendary.
2. Be amazed.
The easiest way to amazement is, as we once discussed with Joe Simon, through the eyes of a kid.
Amazement isn't a reaction, it's a worldview.
To be amazed is to be open to the sublime. When you believe in magic, your attitude is infectious. Others—your loved ones, your filmmaking ilk, your community—will trust that anything is possible. Seriously! Together, there's no easier way to grasp a deeper truth: to life, to the universe, to everything.
3. Be ambitious.
Small ideas can make the biggest impact. All it takes is a mind open to endless possibilities.
Check out Norse mythology. The immense tree Yggdrasil (just give a go at pronouncing that one) isn't just an impressive plant, it is central to their whole belief system. It binds together every plane of reality, flows with the very essence of life.
But it had to start with a seed.
As storytellers, the stories that we tell that come from a place of passion—that place into which we first tapped when we felt the urge to pick up a camera—will always have the chance to be something greater...if we believe they can be.
The key is community: if our story is told with others in mind, told to inspire fellow storytellers to reach for deeper truths and change their worlds, then it will.
Myth-making isn't out of our reach. There's a reason we tell ourselves stories even when we sleep. Our dreams are the stuff of legend.
Maybe we're lying to ourselves, but this is how we survive. Storytelling is what holds us together, and what makes us human.
There is no greater power than that.
Looking to dive further into the idea of why humans tell stories? We really recommend you checking out Jonathan Gottschal's book The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human.
Now it's your turn to indulge in a little bit of folk lore. Share some of your favorite myths in the comments below...or build your own. You'll find that you won't have to think too hard about some truly epic moments in your life's story.