Do We Need Stories?

Tim Parks has a nice reflection on the importance, or perhaps lack thereof, of the novel and stories in our lives over at the New York Review of Books Blog.

You may wonder what this has to do with word origins. To answer that, here is an extract from Parks’s piece:

But there are also words that come complete with entire narratives, or rather that can’t come without them. The only way we can understand words like God, angel, devil, ghost, is through stories, since these entities do not allow themselves to be known in other ways, or not to the likes of me. Here not only is the word invented—all words are—but the referent is invented too, and a story to suit. God is a one-word creation story.

It’s an engaging piece, and I largely agree with Parks’s conclusions, but I’m not sure I would frame the essay in the same way. It’s not that stories are important or necessary, it’s that they are inescapable. Humans are storytelling organisms. It’s what we do.

[Hat tip to Chris Pugh]

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