I find stories very potent
even to the point of being dangerous.
They allow us to create an arrangement of arguments, hide conclusions within metaphors and imagery all so that the person listening experiences it as an “aha!”…like a moment of discovery…
Stories are political.
Story-telling itself is an act meant to persuade. By itself it is not problematic IF those wielding the stories are mindful of what they are doing.
However, if we throw around stories and platitudes without seeing the memes and idea-viruses they propagate, then we’re merely carriers and perpetuators of knowledge-units that we don’t even understand the implications of.
Repeated stories gone viral become cultural myths and accepted norms. Then we, trapped by them try to escape them, or make sense of them in small ways.
Once in a while, there are gigantic attempts to redo the meta-story itself.
Stories are sticky though.
Once you’ve been told a story and made a conclusion, that conclusion is yours and its sticky. It shapes the way you view the world and that in turn shapes your showing up in the world, in a loop.
And if people around you enact the same stories, they start solidifying as ‘truth’.
Artists deconstruct some of these. Maybe we will reach an era where we will bring all these apart — the stories, meta stories, the cultural norms that they have created. We will keep the ones that work and make sense. We will discard those that have outlived their time.
The mental energy and labour for this endeavour is not going to be paid for or compensated. Rather, it has to be a contribution from those who feel moved to do that, as project humanity.
Which brings me to this question — why do I say this?
Because, in our history it is these stories and morals that have caused way more deaths than any virus.
And because, around me, I have seen others and myself use stories to drive home points rather than facts — almost unfairly using the tendency of the brain to rely more on anecdotes. We have been able to dodge science through stories.
At times science itself becomes a pervasive story that refuses to see the limits of its own world view.
Playing story-story has cost us a lot of time and energy. If the clever-er ones amongst us keep doing that, it will only create more and more intensified story-bubbles that we will keep getting sucked into.
Reality is the ultimate judge and cuts across stories. The pain it inflicts is real. Its verdict doesn’t depend on which story you tell or hold in your head.
The invitation to myself and those reading is to take conscious steps towards the ‘real’ (personal and shared), being mindful of the potent tool called stories, to see how storified we are (Abhishek — the story of my life!) and walk with care when engaging with them.