Maybe you’re stumbling onto this site blissfully full (stuffed even) after indulging in that XXL Triple Chocolate Cookie and having the first half of “Wyoming” read to you. (Have no idea what I’m talking about? Go to http://readingandrecipes.wordpress.com to check it out!) And in that mood of blissful satiation, let me steer this post toward some idle ruminations about our human need to share stories.
A friend of mine wrote–and repeated to me in many and various ways over thirty years–“A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens–second in necessity after nourishment and before love and shelter.” * (See! Reading and Recipes hits the top two!) Since encountering that quote thirty-five years ago, I’ve always simplified those ponderous words into more direct language–We have to tell stories! That compulsion is part of our fundamental make-up. I don’t know if this need is physiological or spiritual or some combination of the two, but there’s no denying its strength and persistence.
Being involved in two blogs and having my fiction published on a third website, I’m just beginning to get a sense of the vast repository of stories out there on the Internet. Smashwords.com (a fairly young website) claims to have published over 7 BILLION words! How many words of narrative and stories–from the briefest of tweets to the longest of ongoing epics–are available on the Internet? How many more added every day, every second? Over the last twenty-five years or so, there’s been much speculation about the best use of the Internet. (In those long-ago days of the late 80s and early 90s, the concept was often dismissed by the pundits as simply a better means of transmitting porn. Well, it seems that it is that, but maybe just a little bit more than that!) Let me add my humble opinion to the mix–the most important use of the Internet is as a means of sharing our stories, in all their infinite number and diversity.
To the young, this concept may seem new and revolutionary. To the old (like me–well, older) this development may seem scary and overwhelming. Or, just maybe, it’s neither of these extremes. Maybe it’s simply a new version of an old–very old–trait. When I first moved to the South (of the US, that is–need to remind myself that these Internet stories reach a global audience) any trip to the drugstore or post office saturated me in stories being told by strangers–the clerk behind the window, your neighbor in line, the old-timer seated on the bench outside, the child riding his bike through the parking lot. A drive through the countryside on a Sunday afternoon or summer evening revealed front porches crowded with family and friends of many generations engaged in sharing stories–some maybe for the thousandth time, but that was O.K.: all part of this absolute need to exchange tales. Now carry this understanding back millenia–to the cave paintings in what is now called Europe, to one proto-human encountering another with sign language and drawings in the sands of what is now central Africa–and you begin to realize that the Internet as a story-sharing forum is only a continuation in different form of a need as old as our species.
And I delight to be part of this vast cacophony, in all its rich diversity and numbing anonymity. One only need consider the alternative–silence, all these words bottled up, locked inside: could you imagine how impossible that would be? the trauma and the explosive destructiveness?–to realize that story sharing is here to stay (long as we’re here, anyway) and that is a very good thing indeed–on the Internet, in print, in pictorial or video or audio, or (sakes alive!) actually person-to-person (like in them olden days).
* This quote is taken from A Palpable God by Reynolds Price, published by Atheneum in 1978.