In the world of fantastical technology, advancements in medicine, and the widespread trust of science, there’s still one thing that rules above all; the story. Logic can bring us step by step to some cool ideas of the world, but only when we truly experience something do we understand it. The logical progression of one dollar equaling a can of ice tea makes intuitive sense, but the experience of sweet, dry, slightly bitter tea hitting your tongue brings the true value of the dollar out. We cannot begin to understand the true totality of our world with baby steps. This is where stories come in. Stories bring us experiences. We engage on a journey with the storyteller, balancing triumph and sadness, good and bad, and terror and sunshine as the story marches on. Every field relies on stories, but the language slightly differs. History sees cause and effect of the past, poetry attempt to evoke feelings through multiple literary moves, science brings us the story of exploration into worlds of all dimensions, and the almighty math tells us a story given a few axioms to bring us the universe itself. Through frameworks and breakdowns of stories, we may try to distill the meanings and morals of stories, but we lose the essence of stories; the journey.
For example, here’s the Bhagavad Gita in one sentence:
Arjuna doesn’t want to fight, meets God and listens, wants to fight again.
Here’s Orwell’s 1984:
Overreaching government and society infects every part of life.
And here’s Citizen Kane:
Man who misses the joy of childhood dies, sends people on a frenzy with one word.
We attempt to make stories into a delicious sauce and boil away the impurities, and with that we lose the story itself. We cannot reduce everything so that it fits our world view.
But the question is, why does the fluff matter? Why can’t I watch a ten minute video about a movie to get the gist so I can process a story? And there’s genuinely nothing wrong with that. We logically see an input and an output, and if we can shrink the input without the output visibly changing much, then it makes sense for us to process, cut, and mutilate stories to our liking. The issue itself comes in the processing.
Unnecessary processing genuinely ruins stories. My takeaways are not yours, and by extension my recollection of a story will not be yours. With shrinking a story 100 times over, we lose everything but the core, and with the exposed heart of the ideas, we lose that too. This at best will lead to misinterpretation, and at worst will lead to mass misinformation. The takeaway from the Gita could be how Arjuna got ready to fight, but the stories and the paths presented to Arjuna illustrate how he becomes ready. 1984 isn’t just how government is bad, but a description of a soul crushing environment where there is no hope and how people are willing to destroy one another for their supposed gain. Citizen Kane isn’t just about the sled of a now old man and his happiest memories, but an understanding of a ‘successful’ life of riches and pure emptiness in a soul. At some point, there’s going to be processing (I’m not going to put the entirety of these three stories in here), and it does serve a purpose. But adding macroscopic lenses to the world of storytelling leads us with nothing but the spec of the journey.
Why this matters
When we start to process information to the extent that we do today, we are consuming the equivalent of fast food, and continually eating fast food day in and day out will continue to degrade what we love in society. Loneliness is rising by the year, and younger generations begin to have fewer and fewer meaningful interactions with their peers. Once we lose the story in our lives, we start to lose the purpose. Social media lose the story of struggles, and instead rewards the highlights. This occurs in every field from crypto scams in the financial industry to dating apps and selling lust as love to rote memorization and cheating in schools. We want the sugar without the medicine. There’s absolutely nothing unique about us as humans to do this, but we are the first generation to get a sense of what that’s like. We get to eat fast food every day because it’s available, and as a result we become miserable.
The Power of Your Story
There’s nothing much we can do except for look at ourselves. We have to see the actions we take and the moves we make from an objective viewpoint. If we had the ability to write our own story, we would want to surround ourselves with the best environment we can possibly get. The thing is, we can. There’s nothing stopping us from constructing our own reality with every choice we make. We can become the heroes given good choices, or stuck as zombies given bad ones. We choose the systems that we subscribe to, and as a result we choose our own reality. With that, why can we not choose to be great? Hard work lies ahead for us all, but the light at the end of the tunnel is shining brighter with every step in the right direction. Let’s build ourself up.