Sapiens & Storytelling

Our Restless Hours Between Sleep Are Waking Dreams

Yuval Harari’s Sapiens is going to be turned into a film. The book has been included in many recommended lists among people I know, interact with. or follow on social networks — which seems appropriate given the message of the book: that Humanity’s history, in almost every aspect, has been driven by its ability to imagine and then share the fruits of that imagination.

Our past, present and future is bound together by a connecting thread of story-telling, and every institution, cultural practice, artifact, and shared memory is built on this. Our economics, religion, and politics are part of one never-ending tale. This is what we are doing in every waking moment.

Everything I have written about on “The Big Stack” has been on its surface about technology, history or macro trends in society or economics — but it’s really my retelling of a story. I have written about man going to the moon and A.I, animal spirits in the markets, corporate intrigues in old media, business models in “FANG” platform companies, scooter startups and most recently about eSports and communities. Everything has one thing in common: they are happening because of our social nature.

To borrow from the Wiki entry for “Sapiens”, “[T]he ability of Sapiens to cooperate in large numbers arises from its unique capacity to believe in things existing purely in the imagination.” I’ve written about different events but they were all riding atop the same base of who we are and what we do: we are individuals who must gather in groups, and it’s never a silent affair. We shout, whisper, squabble and share with each other relentlessly. Our stories awaken our spirits, bore us to sleep, drop us into a deep pit of rage or despair, or carry us with love in our hearts skyward— the sharing never ends. “We” is the pronoun which defines our existence on Earth. Birth and death are solitary — in between we have company.

A lot of popular personal and professional advice is about how to make the most of a situation, a moment or a place. The advice often includes how to navigate the unfamiliar — whether it’s a place, a country, a job, a country, a skill, or a relationship — our future. Eager to listen, in order to benefit. Driven to share, in order to serve. Often the advice is to join in the storytelling. We become our own best salesmen — We sell and tell ourselves tales of how we can survive, thrive and be more alive.

We cover ourselves in stories. We crave them. Great or small, long or short, every tale is cut from the whole cloth of boundless imagination. We can conjure empires of the future — and replace the truths of an ancient saga with new ideas and beliefs. Or we can tuck a whole era with just a phrase into our ear. We turn the restless hours between sleep into waking dreams. Species: homo narrator.