Kira at Bashi; Temba, his arms wide*

Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel

Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel

“And we still can’t even say hello to these people.”

This is cool. My friend Nicole posted a link to this article from The Atlantic about the psychological comforts of storytelling and their possible evolutionary benefit:

The theory is that if I tell you a story about how to survive, you’ll be more likely to actually survive than if I just give you facts. For instance, if I were to say, “There’s an animal near that tree, so don’t go over there,” it would not be as effective as if I were to tell you, “My cousin was eaten by a malicious, scary creature that lurks around that tree, so don’t go over there.” A narrative works off of both data and emotions, which is significantly more effective in engaging a listener than data alone. In fact, Jennifer Aaker, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, says that people remember information when it is weaved into narratives “up to 22 times more than facts alone.”

As a storyteller, of course this intrigued me. As it makes extensive reference to the Epic of Gilgamesh, what was the first thing that came to my mind?

Darmok.

No, that’s not a frozen dessert on Razna V. It’s a mytho-historical hunter figure from place that never existed, and it’s the key metaphor in the season five episode “Darmok” of Star Trek: The Next GenerationThe ship’s captain of a species that speaks only in metaphor “kidnaps” Picard and takes him to an uninhabited planet where they must confront a deadly, invisible beast, the idea being that a shared danger can bring people closer together. In this case, it almost brings their two civilizations to war because at first they can’t understand each other. It’s only when Picard and Dathon finally break through their communications barriers that they begin to understand what their stories mean.

I’ve always made sense of the world by putting it in story, but I never thought that it might be an evolutionary adaptation. Hopefully, I’ll keep evolving!

*Tell me a story. I’m listening.