When we hear someone else telling a story or sharing a metaphor, our brain quickly searches for similar experiences we’ve already had.
You probably haven’t been to Kakadu National Park. You probably haven’t even been to Australia. And if you have been, you probably haven’t ever been in Northern Territories, Australia. And if you have, did you leave Darwin? Or were you way down south at Uluru Rock? So you literally can’t relate to my story.
But when you read that story, your brain scrambled around looking for similar experiences you’ve had. Have you been to a national park? Have you seen petroglyphs? If you’re in the US, that “40c” reference threw you, but you understand hot and humid.
When our brains search for similar experiences, we activate a region called the insula, which is an emotion part of the brain. This allows us to associate the proper...
A few years ago, I was exploring petroglyphs and ancient dwelling sites in Kakadu National Park in Northern Territories, Australia. In my usual fashion, I didn’t follow a prescribed path, and I didn’t take the time to read any interpretive signs. I had a lot to see, and not much time.
As I jogged around one interesting rock formation, I was confronted by a huge painting on the cliff face. Panting and sweating (it was 40c and humid), I glanced over the drawing and instantly understood the story, or at least the broad strokes of it: The big creature with the claws and teeth (and huge vagina) gave birth to a more comforting creature, who was the mother of all humans, or at least the tribe who owned this origins story.
In other words, people from more than 20,000 years ago, who spoke a language I don’t speak (and probably no longer exists), told I story that I could understand.
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