Whenever a new team comes together there is always someone who raises and asks where the money is going to come from. What I've learned is that the critical issue surrounding any new project - or life goal, for that matter - is not money. Instead, the most important work is finding a story powerful enough to call the dream into being. - Stephen Kiesling, editor-in-chief Spirituality & Health magazine, "The Power of a Good Story" December 2005 issue (not online yet)
Food for thought - humans as a story-making animal:
Observations comparing human and animal behavior show that, while plenty of other animals use tools, humans seem to be unique in building tools and then using them to build more complex structures. So homo faber (human craftsperson) sets us apart by our ability to plan and construct over the long term. And unlike most other animals, we humans have sophisticated humor and play for joy (homo ludens). We are also a greedy bunch, driven selfishly for our own economic and commercial success, which is why theories based on the metaphor of homo economicus can be applied so successfully to human markets and behavior.
Meanwhile, theologians talk about homo religiosus (religious or praying human), a metaphor that seems to fit even non- religious people if for no more profound reason than because neurologists tell us that there is a special part of our brain that is connected to religious experiences. When people pray, this brain part is particularly active and if, in turn, the neurons in this part are artificially stimulated, the person reports a religious experience. So, perhaps, who we are and the human quest for meaning come down to our brain architecture.
What is fascinating is that all of these metaphors can be so powerfully descriptive that people often forget that they are only metaphors. For example, seeing humans as purely egocentric, consumer-oriented homo economicus may accurately predict markets and make people rich. But taking the metaphor literally — thinking of ourselves as instruments of the marketplace — makes life pointless, empty, and ultimately baffling. By the same token, when we take our wisdom or even our religious nature too literally, the results tend to be tragic or comic or both.
So, to help keep all these other metaphors in perspective, I would like to add another to the list: Homo narrandus (storytelling human). Why? Because we humans create stories to make sense out of the chaos of our raw perceptions and experiences, to explain ideas and abstract concepts and, ultimately, to deal with the incoherence of this world. To be a human is to constantly weave stories. And to be in a culture means to be endlessly woven into a tapestry of more stories. We don't see them as stories because we are so fully embedded in them.
Such ambiguity is extremely difficult. We wise humans want a reality that is grounded one way — our own way. What we most ardently refuse to see is that the stories that truly matter tend to reflect the nature of homo narrandus. - interview with Anne Foerst, author of God in the Machine (excerpt), theologian and humanoid robotics researcher at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory