The Power of the Narrative

I’ve written before about the difficulties of filtering through, comprehending, and integrating the vast amounts of information available today. The conundrum we face is that our dominant cultural narratives have been challenged and overturned at an unprecedented rate due to our growing awareness of other cultures, other ideologies, and simply just better understanding how it feels to be “other.” This combined with a seemingly unending supply of new information (new studies, cutting edge science, leaked governmental or financial documents, etc.) easily disrupts everything we thought we new about the world. As a society we are being deconstructed, a process that is at turns painful, irritating, and cathartic.

The power of the narrative, however, is still very much alive and well. When one of the stories that defines your life is challenged, you may react by clinging to that story and you rewrite yourself as a defender of your belief system. You might find yourself incapable of processing the challenge at this point in your life and choose to live in a state of denial. Or, you might question your story and experience loss and confusion. Some people are capable of spending the better part of their lives in this deconstructed state, the place where we seem to be as a society right now. We fluctuate between feeling nostalgic for a time when our narrative was unchallenged and feeling anxious to escape the current cultural and ideological deadlock. Either way, within this state, you, me, all of us, are in incapable of moving forward. Without a narrative, we can’t progress.

When the evolution of ideas seems to be spinning out of control, we are not powerless to adapt. We simply need to get to the heart of the matter. What is important? On what do we all depend? I think the answers to these questions might sound slightly different depending on who you’re asking, but when you get to the heart of the matter, we all pretty much want and value the same things. Can we let go of what is holding us back (assumptions, biases, disproven theories, unfounded beliefs, dogmatic thinking, etc.)? You have to let go before you can move forward. Can we do it alone or must we work together? I think we all know the answer to this one. We have the power to progress, but not until we can unite behind a narrative that is bigger than ourselves.

Easy, right? Of course not. But, we live in a world full of crazy, creative, ingenious individuals who are finding ways to connect like never before. This wouldn’t be the first time in human history we’ve united behind a grand idea to overcome great odds.

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