Not a nostalgic post about the past.
I’m standing in the kitchen with my flatmate.
It’s Thursday evening, we’re cooking curry and for some reason, we’ve just discussed abortion, human rights, moral relativity, personal comparison in the face of social media, eastern interest in Western culture (and vise versa), control of the media and the type of society we might end up with in a post-pandemic world.
So, just the standard.
The one thing which has stuck with me, and keeps becoming a tangent of my consciousness that I tend to follow, is the idea of narrative.
The idea of story-telling.
The idea of data.
The idea of history.
Are these absolutes, or are they really just ideas? Are they tools of oppression or freedom?
To a large degree, I’ve been thinking about and reading about narratives in the context of the human psyche. In 2014, Michael Specter wrote an article for the New Yorker entitled ‘Can We Unmake a Memory?’ I only recently discovered it, but it delves into the unreliability of memory.
It’s the way a friend tells a story that they’ve maybe told before, and you place yourself in it as a segment of your own memory of the event.
So, if we can create false memories, surely we can create skewed narratives for our lives. Perhaps then, we can change the perception around certain times in our lives where we’ve been hurt, traumatised or have endured a long period of suffering. It is, in a way, a mechanism of the ‘everything happens for a reason’ sentiment. It’s post rationalisation.
Is it harmful? If it is manufactured by the self, then it is also manufactured by the ego. In every book I’ve read recently, the ego is always the binary opposition of good. But I’m not sure.
If some of the world’s most notorious criminals told themselves a different narrative of who they were, would it be powerful enough to stop a crime from happening?
And on the other end of the spectrum, if we are determined to change who we are and how we conduct ourselves, are affirmations of a certain narrative powerful enough to shift our perception of ourselves, and hence our actions?
If there really are no absolute truths in our world, they might be.