Stories Last Longer Than Monuments

The storyteller functions as the collective conscious of mankind

Erik Brown
Nov 28 · 6 min read
Photo by Tim Photoguy on Unsplash

What could last forever? It’s an interesting question to ask. The concept of “forever” would differ between the people you ask this question to. Even the sun will eventually go supernova and burnout — dying in the way a star does.

So for the sake of argument, let’s settle on forever as a far distant time in the future or past. Long after our death or our great grandchildren’s eventual death could be the starting basis of forever.

If something can last thousands of years, it would be considered ancient. The people of the time studying this thing may even have the hubris to say it’s been around “forever”.

Humans are well aware of their mortality. We know very well the shell that carries our conscious will not be around forever. Various civilizations have attempted to fight against time and mortality in a pursuit of forever.

They realized the body would not live eternally, so they created great monuments to conquer the domain of forever. They created these monuments in stone, which is a wonderful building material.

It can be formed into anything with effort. It can also resist wind, fire, and water. Sitting in place as a sentinel against the elements, stone could be seen to last forever — at least to a human’s perspective.

Photo by Adam Bichler on Unsplash

A Building Material Better Than Stone

Even the toughest stone can crack. A strong enough earthquake could leave the pyramids a nebulous pile of stones. But, there is a building material that can resist the most powerful forces of nature and time — the story.

We now have the luxury of a written language to pass on stories accurately. However, stories have lived long before writing came to exist. Oral traditions managed quite well before the written word came along.

“Building The Ark” — James Tissot 1896–1902 Via Wikipedia Creative Commons [Public Domain]

In T. W. Doane’s book Bible Myths And Their Parallels In Other Religions he examines the Bible’s flood story and the deluge story of many other cultures.

In the Bible story of the flood, God instructs Noah to create an Ark or ship and take animals and previsions with him to restart humanity. A very similar story occurs in Chaldean history, a people related to the ancient Assyrians.

The story even ends with the lead character repeatedly sending birds out to look for land. Eventually their ship finally rests on a mountain.

Doane also examines a Hindu story of a great flood caused by Brahma who wanted to rid the world of wicked men. A pious man was chosen to be saved and instructed to fill a boat with plants and pairs of animals. He further mentions ancient Greek, Chinese, and Mexican stories of a similar style flood.

There is also a flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh as well. This ancient story of a king and his search for immortality is thought to be written down anywhere from 2150 to 1400 BC.

Doane also shows a number of other similar Biblical stories that occur in other cultures as well. In particular, the Tower Of Babel or stories about a fall of man and a deity confusing their language seems to be a common theme among many different cultures.

He believes these stories come from similar oral traditions carried by ancient man for thousands of years. Although Doane’s book was released in 1882, recent research corroborates his belief in the foreverness of oral tradition and stories.

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

“These stories are plausible descriptions of a volcanic eruption... The volcanic eruption of Kinrara adds to a growing list of geological events that appear to be recounted in Australian Aboriginal traditions, including sea level rise around 10,000 years ago and other volcanic eruptions elsewhere on the continent.”

— Doctor Benjamin Cohen, Phys.org website

A team of university researchers in 2017 studied a story passed on by the Gugu Badhun Aboriginal people of Australia. It was a story that involved a volcano. That particular continent isn’t known for its devastating eruptions, so it was strange that this story was told.

It turns out there was a volcano that erupted in that region — 7000 years ago. The Gugu Badhun story of this explosion has been passed down over 230 generations.

This story is older than the pyramids and exists to this very day. Not even the power of a volcano could destroy it. Now that’s a piece of forever right there.

More Than Just Stories

We’ve just seen that stories can be carried by civilizations for incredible periods of time. But more than just the story itself is carried in the tale. In Jordan Peterson’s Biblical Lecture series he talks about the psychology buried within the stories that are passed on through humanity.

He says these ancient stories carry the collective conscious of mankind.

In particular, he references the “Hero’s Journey” developed by Joseph Campbell. This particular psychological format seems to repeat in many ancient stories circulated by long passed cultures. It also exists in many modern stories of our current culture.

Hero’s Journey — Picture By User:Slashme Via Wikipedia Creative Commons

The stories are more than just stories. They show a deep psychological desire of humanity to grow by seeking the unknown. They also pass along the gathered wisdom of humanity and deep insights within the human mind.

Peterson also describes the ancient Mesopotamian god Marduk. The god had eyes around his head and could speak magic words. He was nominated to face an ancient evil sea beast named Tiamat. Marduk would destroy Tiamat and turn her body into the earth.

Peterson explains that Marduk, king of the gods, was an example for what a ruler should be. The eyes around the head symbolizes vision. A ruler should be able to see and anticipate the needs of the people. A wise ruler can see in all directions.

Speaking the magic words is a way of bringing people together by your words. The magic words create the unity of a kingdom or nation. This old story and the hero’s journey carry ancient human collective conscious and knowledge into the future — one might say forever.

Your Role As A Writer Or Story Teller

When you write or tell a story, you’re doing more than just entertaining people. You’re carrying on a tradition that’s existed since language developed in our species.

You’re participating in that collective consciousness of humanity and spreading knowledge to future generations. You’re creating a monument in your very speech — one that may outlast stone.

In your own way you’re taking on that human struggle for foreverness. Unfortunately, your stories may not outlast the tale of the great flood or the collective memory of the Gugu Badhun.

But then again, the tellers of these tales may have never imagined their stories would outlast the monuments of their communities. The story you write or tell today may well do the same thing.

So write and tell your story. Retell stories of your ancestors as well and take your place on the path to foreverness.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read, please share.

Lessons from History

Lessons from History is a platform for writers who share ideas and inspirational stories from world history. The objective is to promote history on Medium and demonstrate the value of historical writing.

Erik Brown

Written by

Work out fanatic, martial artist, student, MBA, and connoisseur of useless information. CantWriteToSaveMyLife@yahoo.com

Lessons from History

Lessons from History is a platform for writers who share ideas and inspirational stories from world history. The objective is to promote history on Medium and demonstrate the value of historical writing.

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