The Republicans vs. the Democrats. The Christians vs. the secularists. The Christians vs. the Muslims. The Joker vs. Batman. Israelis vs. Palestinians. Conservatives vs. Gays.
Fight, fight, fight. Everyone is butting heads with everyone else all over the place.
What are they fighting about ? What is the issue?
Sex? Territory? Power? Security?
No. Animals fight for these things.
Humans fight over only one thing:
Yep. As human beings with senses we are surrounded by a constant flow of incoming information, visual, tactile, auditory. Add to that our memories and experiences. We are each the center of a chaotic rampage of data. What do we do with it?
We organize it. We filter it. We pick and choose what we will let in, what we will hold, what we will keep and what we will trash. We have to. We don’t have the capacity to pay attention and notice everything. So how do we choose what we will keep ?
We write stories. The interaction of what we already have and what is new is woven into stories, histories, narratives of who we are, where we are and what our experience means.
We live and die by our stories. We fight over which story will be the one that shapes our world and our lives. We will kill to make sure our story is the one that rules. We will die rather than live by someone else’s story.
The Christian church has a story: about how our lives began, what they mean and what we need to do to make them fulfilling and good. That story spread all over the world. Spread by sacrifice and service, death and sword, water and blood. It ran headlong into the Islamic story, which concerned the same issues, but had different answers. Battle will only cease when one story rules.
The 1% and the 99% battle over what it means to be an American, who determines our place in society and the proper use of its resources. As long as the story of “the American Dream” was accepted in its traditional form, as long as men and women shaped their lives according to that story and what it told them about life, all was quiet. But now a new story has arisen, as new stories have before, but this one is getting a wider reading, a wider acceptance and that means things may change.
Each of us has a story. Maybe one we’ve built ourselves or one that we’ve been handed, by culture, family, church or peers. Most of us think our story is the “Truth” about who we are. But it isn’t. Our stories are what we need/want to believe about who we are and what our lives mean. They don’t have to be “true” in the sort of “this-is-what-is-whether-you-think-so-or-not”, they simply have to serve our needs. Do they comfort us? Do they make us feel safe and secure? Do they give our actions direction and clarity? Do they make the world around us comprehensible?
Most of us run into times when our stories need editing, when they don’t serve their purpose. The editing process can be slow, subtle and easy or it can be a crisis, a trainwreck. The classic “midlife crisis” happens when someone reaches middle age and discovers that the story they’re living isn’t one they chose (“Is this not my beautiful home ? Is this not my beautiful wife?”). Suddenly the question of “Who am ,I and what am I doing?” has no answer. You’re in free-fall, grasping desperately for some sort of ground, some sort of meaning. All too often that can mean rushing back and doing what you thought you should have done when you were much younger (“I’m going to buy a sports car.”, “I’m going to find a younger wo/man.” or even, heaven help us, “I’m going to start a rock band.”).
We are tied together (when we are tied together) by our shared stories. What is it that binds the members of a church, a synagogue or a lodge if not a common story of what life is, what it means and what our place in it is ? When we gather as family we share our stories, of parents, children, ancestors and descendants. These days you’ll often find groups of friends who gather together as something of a “family-that-you-choose” and what binds them are their shared stories.
There are folks today who worry about the possibility that science may not have as strong a hold as it should on our society. They worry about the popularity of “alternative” explanations for things. These might be religious (creationism, Flood theory), paranormal (spirits and ghosts), astral (UFOs, alternate dimensions), historical (Atlantis, Mu) or paranoid (conspiracy theories, where’s Tesla’s death ray). Scientific types complain that such ideas don’t hold up to the rigor required of true scientific, rational explanations for our world and how it works, they aren’t “ rigorous, factual or true”.
Maybe not: but they’re better at making stories. Alternative theories are more likely to involve persons and personalities, not just forces and energies. We want to see the universe as we are: alive, mysterious and story-telling. We are all story-tellers, we are all pattern-makers. Where is the pattern, the system, the music of the universe if it is not in us ?
There are no constellations without us to lay those patterns on the stars.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was: “Once upon a time . . . “