Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Is one supposed to have "fun" reading about the entire breakdown of HUMANITY from a collaborative Anthropological/Campbellian outlook?
I was pleasantly reminded of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, but instead of wandering all about and being a little less funny than Bryson, what we get is a rather better focus with a little more depth on a subject very close to almost everyone's hearts: Ourselves.
Now let's get this clear. It's not supposed to be a full-out treatise, nor is it giving citations, but I've read a ton of other books that talk about almost everything in here. It's not new stuff. It is, however, written in such an engaging way that I pretty much fell out of my seat in love with the way they are all presented.
I really got into the counterarguments against agriculture, but before that, I loved the idea that people were all always pretty much always people. Language, myths, and ideas changed us all into the creatures we are now. It's a very Campbellian view. Language increases complexity, but also a closer reliance on details. Abstract concepts arose to help people conceptualize groups of people much larger than a decent gossip circle. We tell ourselves lies and stories in order to accomplish much bigger things.
Well, the author takes us all the way through the agricultural revolution, into cultural theories, monetary theories, political theories, and scientific theories. All of these have made us what we are, and all of them come from the basic storytelling concept. We believe banks work, and so they do. We believe that our social structure works, and so it does. If we don't trust it, it falls apart, but that's the whole point. We trust the story to be true, and we continue on. Money works this way. The author goes into the fantastic rabbit-hole called Credit. Fractional reserve. We all know it works so long as we trust it works. The same is true for Capitalism, or Buddhism, or the Medieval outlook, or Christmas.
Shall we dismiss, or enshrine, the rest of human history this way?
Sure! Why not? It FEELS right. The story this author tells FEELS trustworthy. I'm hooked.
But then, I'm a writer, myself. I believe in the written word and its power to transform the world. Myth as Life. Myth IS Life. Every instant of our own lives is the artifact of the stories we tell about ourselves. It's not so hard to believe that everything else we do as a species follows the same method.
Hello, money. What makes you think I should believe in you? Oh, wait, you tell a very compelling story. :)
I like this book. :)
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