It’s all about the narrative

We’re in the midst of political high drama in the U.S., and while I don’t discuss or write about political views on this site, the whole process serves as a great reminder: so much of what we believe to be true is shaped by the narrative we subscribe to.

That’s not to say that there aren’t objective truths. Of course there are. There are facts, and there are realities that no opinion can change.

But what can be influenced, in the face of fact, is intention behind the facts; or overall point of view, or the big picture plan.

You can see it in the way the major political parties and candidates position themselves and their responses to current events. You can see the way they mold narrative in their ads and slogans.

Funny how out of concrete and stubborn things like facts, you can have two opposite storylines. Actually, there are many storylines around all the issues, because there are many parties. We typically pay attention to the two major parties, but there are others, those third-party groups that are small, but occasionally vocal enough to make a point to the rest of us, even if they are unlikely, in the foreseeable future, to win any national elections.

So there are many narratives that evolve and are propagated. I see “urban myths” that float around from both sides of the political aisle, some of which are so easily refuted I wonder how anyone still falls for them.

There are statistics that are twisted and shaped, then re-shaped, to give the audience just what the speaker wants to deliver.

I say all this to remind myself, and readers, that we all do this, in varying forms, all the time. We’re all either creating narratives out of the events we see and / or participate in, or we’re audience to the views of others.

I hear stories from others about their lives, their work, their relationships. And you know what? If I heard another telling of the same situations, it would probably be different, coming from a different narrator.

That’s just inevitable. Not that I mean to say we’re consciously bending truth to fit our own ends. I believe narrative formation happens at a subconscious level. Someone we tend to dislike, we tend to ascribe bad intention to their actions. Someone we like, we tend to excuse when they make a mistake.

We automatically favor groups and voices we find alignment with, and we’re suspicious, long before facts come into the picture, of those we tend to disagree with.

Just a reminder that we all spin narratives, and believe narratives, that are products of how we see the world, how we interpret the actions of others, and how we reconcile all this with our personal point of view.

Even when we try to be objective, it’s difficult. The clearest thinking among us, with the best motives, can’t wholly avoid the power of narrative. It’s hard-wired, baked in.

It does help to be aware that we all think in this context, and be open to looking at other sides. That’s where I believe we can practice objectivity, and a real search for truth.

I’ve sometimes thought I understood a situation, only to learn later that I didn’t understand at all. Sometimes we just don’t know all the facts. And sometimes, we can only see the facts through our particular lens.

If political posturing does nothing else for me, it’s a strong reminder to think…really think…about what I believe, the narrative I accept, based on the facts as I know them.

And it’s a reminder that I should be careful about my narrative. I want to be fair, and honest. I hope that’s how most people are.

Just a reminder to be careful of the narrative…see any good ads lately?

Be careful out there…it’s election season!



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