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TELLING TALES

Nothing is more human than our incredible ability to construct stories, to build narratives and share them with others.
The stories we tell forge bonds and often largely define the way we perceive the world.

© Alma Itzhaky, Figurine, 2016 – www.almaitzhaky.com

For a long time, it was thought that the gift of language belonged to humanity alone, but science has since shown us otherwise. Many species of animals “speak” in different ways and communicate effectively in a language of their own.

It was also thought that only humans organized funeral rites, but elephant cemeteries soon set us straight on that, too.

Then it was said that laughter was our unique specialty, but it has now been proven that other animals share this capability. I have read that some primates are even capable of playing jokes on one another and have an unquestionable sense of humour.

What is left, then, that is unique to human beings? I have come to believe that if our species is distinguished by anything, it is by our ability to tell stories to others, and to tell them to ourselves. Yuval Noah Harari, in his celebrated book Sapiens, says the same thing. He writes with great humour that you “couldn’t convince a large number of chimpanzees to get together to build a cathedral or go on a crusade by promising them that if they do, they’ll go to monkey heaven after they die, where they’ll be given limitless bananas.”

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