Story is there to Remind us We’re Human


"We all think that an exception is going to be made in our case and we're going to live forever. Being a human is actually arriving at the understanding that that's not going to be. Story is there to remind us that it's just OK." 

[Ken Burns]


The things that matter more to us is the whole, the sum of the parts, where 1+1 equals 3. Stories and shades of gray, and there are hundreds of ways to make them compelling. We do coalesce around stories that seem transcendent, as Burns says in the short video below.

Stories ere our way of making sense of the world. Our brain's shortcuts for remembering stuff, by emotional connection. They often contain a narrative fallacy with the teaching.

Think about the stories we're watching at the movie theaters this summer — super heroes are rooted in the American psyche. Their behavior reflects the cultural assumptions that drive American choice.

According to Jaime O'Boyle, Senior Analyst, Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, these cultural assumptions are:

  1. Individuals should determine their own destiny
  2. Individuals should control their social and physical environment
  3. Authority or “bigness” should be viewed with suspicion
  4. Actions should be judged in a moral light (philanthropy, for example)
  5. We should have as many choices as possible
  6. Anything can and should be improved 
  7. The future should be better than the present

How are these assumptions being shaped by our current environment and circumstances? Do we still buy into the hero values? Are there emergent archetypes in our collective narrative?

How is our identity being shaped by derivative values (I'm cool because I'm wearing this jacket) vs. reflective values (this jacket is cool because I'm wearing it)?

How much do relationships and context influence how we validate who we are to ourselves?

We tell stories to continue ourselves.


[hat tip Garr Reynolds]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.