A couple of weeks ago, Jen and I attended a knife show in Jersey City. While wandering the space, we started talking with Matthew Parkinson, a bladesmith from Dragon’s Breath Forge in Connecticut. (If you’ve ever seen the show Forged in Fire, Matthew was one of the competitors whose blade had to withstand a gunshot.)
While talking with him, we learned that Matthew focuses his knifemaking business on two kinds of blades: kitchen knives and swords. He explained that he feels every human society, clan, or tribe shares three things with every other clan, tribe, or society. Those three things are family, food, and fighting.
Matthew said that he makes kitchen knives because they are the tools that cooks use to provide food for their families. By making good knives, he can help bring people together. (I thought that sounded a lot like Bill Penzey’s philosophy about cooks healing the world. You can read Bill’s thoughts at Penzeys.com, which also happens to sell amazing spices.)
Matt mentioned he makes swords because fighting is something all humans do. We may frown on it, we may deplore the violence, but we can’t deny that we fight one another. Almost constantly. A good sword is a tool for those battles. They can also be beautiful works of art.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what Matt says all humans share. And I think I’ve found a fourth item to add to his list. That would be storytelling.
Storytelling is a tradition that every culture has. For those societies without a system of writing, the ability to tell a story well is paramount. It’s how elders impart wisdom to children. Good storytellers provide detailed information about how the society cares for its members, what people owe to their gods, and what makes them a united group.
For those societies with writing, filmmaking, and other media, storytelling is how we’re entertained, educated, and guided to live our lives in conjunction with others.
Storytellers, like cooks and warriors, are a constant in every society. Food, stories, and safe spaces allow family connections to flourish. Strong family bonds can bring new allies. And communities are built on those alliances.
Modern writers and filmmakers are proud descendants of the great storytellers of the past.
What do you think are the bonds that humanity, in all its diversity, shares?