Have you noticed that we always surround ourselves with stories? Everything we do, everything we own has one. From little unimportant things to life itself, we create enticing narratives that leave us and those around us fantasizing. It seems that we can’t live without them. Have you ever wondered why?
Here, let me tell you a short story.
In the beginning there wasn’t much. Life on Earth was simple and everything was reduced to the bare essentials. Nature was relentless, allowing only the strong to survive while the weak perished. Those left alone didn’t live too long on their own, so everybody had to fit in somewhere – a community, a tribe of some sort. Then men of various tribes fought each other for territory, food and women. People hunted and were hunted. It was all about survival. Life as a whole wasn’t something pretty, so we started telling ourselves stories.
That was a long long time ago – you might think. But if you get deep down to the core of our lives and our society today, not much has changed. Things are the same. There’s no god, no karma, no fucking magic, no nothing. It’s just us trying to survive and thrive in a random world with the same relentless nature that made us fight for our lives in the first place.
The only major difference is that more than survival, today we have stories. We have stories because we don’t want to admit that in the end it all comes down to survival in its purest form. Today we have so much comfort that we have forgotten what true survival means. Today we have everything we need and then more. Or at least most of us do.
In the past we, humans, assigned a story to all the things we couldn’t understand. Because nature is chaotic, we invented tales about those old bearded men in the sky who punished the bad and praised the good so that we could be comforted when things went haywire. We invented rules of our own because we couldn’t accept the freedom and the huge responsibility that came with that freedom. We then kept modifying and adapting these tales as our lives changed across the centuries.
Today we are masters at crafting beautiful stories so we can comfort our not so beautiful lives. We use them to get over the fact that security is an illusion. We use them to justify our irrational decisions and the helplessness of not rising up to the challenge, of not facing the true nature of our lives. We can create any story we want to with imagination as our only limit. We then take for granted those patterns of our lives that fit our story – in a judgement error called the confirmation bias – and leave everything else to oblivion.
Every minute of every hour of every day of our lives we’re telling ourselves a story. From the break of day until nightfall, we continuously work to improve that story, to improve the way we feel about ourselves. We add something more, we delete unwanted details, we modify and reshape our stories to sound the way we would like them to sound. We create an ideal image of ourselves and of the world around us, we modify the facts so we can feel good about our fucked up insignificant lives on earth.
But you see, stories are excuses. Big ones. They are excuses for not facing our deepest fears and insecurities, for our mistakes, for our inaction, for every decision that we take, for choosing one way or the other. Justifications. That’s all they are. Big or small, stories justify our beliefs, our actions, our very lives. They simply justify our fear of not knowing what this is all about.
Today we continue telling ourselves the same kinds of stories only because it makes us feel better. They give us purpose and a sense of direction when we don’t have one. And here on Earth, we don’t. We never had. Stories make us feel somehow protected. Yes, nature is cruel. We humans are cruel. Life is far from being rosy. There’s no normal, no good or bad, nor right or wrong, nobody knows shit and our universe is pure chaos. Yet we don’t want to be reminded of this cold hard truth. We love to be comforted. We long to make ourselves feel stronger when in fact we’re just some weaklings trying their worst to survive a relentless life on a godless planet in the middle of a fucking random chaotic universe.
But stories don’t make us stronger. They never did. Facing what we don’t know does that. Facing the adversity of the world without that cute unicorn story does the trick.
So next time when you’re telling yourself a sweet compelling story, try a thought experiment. Try to get rid of that story.
Then think about what you feel.
I know. It’s fear.
It’s the fear of letting go of what made you who you think you are today. The fear of losing your identity, your sense of self.
But do you really know who you are? Who we all are?
We’re only stories, my friend.