Humans are addicted to story. Now, it’s probably worse in our time, because there’s SO MUCH OF IT.
If you want to, between the news, songs, books in various forms (for instance, I have a current audio book at all times, because that’s what I WALK to.), movies and TV series, you can spend your entire day with your head full of stories.
This is arguably even more so, if your job is to produce stories. Often, while in the car going somewhere, I find myself going “So, his ultimate motivation for doing this, is what?” and trying to figure out how to fit all the pieces of the puzzle in my character’s story.
Part of this is just being human though. The human mind MIGHT be the best instrument for creating logical narrative out of reality.
The problem is that reality isn’t logical. Also that our vision of it is limited/enhanced by what we see.
In fact, when you start getting one of those flashes of inspiration in which you see the whole of life, and it’s all connected and you go “Oh, but then, I must be/do–” you’re probably wrong. If you go with it, you’ve also probably lost your mind.
Look, when I started out as a writer my mentors told me above all I should avoid making up stories about my profession/life.
Took me a while to understand what they meant. No, I mean, quite a while. Because it’s absolutely normal for humans to try to figure why people around them act the way they do. And of course, the way most of publishing acts is HIGHLY irrational. (No, seriously. They have all these shibboleths and go through trends, because they can’t figure out what sells. (Partly ideological blinds, partly just… they screw with the numbers, then drink their own ink.)
But they were right, you can’t make up stories about why things are happening, because when you’re a newby you’ll a) be wrong b) sometimes get bit in the butt by your assumptions.
I’ve known people who assumed, say, they were never going to sell again, and therefore went out and sold to a tiny press, which in turn — such were the works of trad pub back when — gave them bad numbers on the computer, which in turn meant their big publisher never bought them again.
And I’ve lost count of the number of friends (well, I still consider them friends. How they view me is nothing to do with me. Or probably them. Just narrative in their heads.) who think I somehow told publishing houses to stop publishing them. (When, for the record, I was actually working really hard to try to get the houses to publish them. It’s just that, also for the record, I never had that kind of influence, one way or another.)
Makes perfect sense when at least their reported numbers were three times mine, and yet the house dumped them and continued publishing me. And no, I have no explanation for it, either. ALL I KNOW is two things:
It wasn’t me.
Publishers make decisions that make no sense all the time.
But of course, that’s the problem when things make no sense. When you’re only being given part of the story, or a completely false one (All publishing houses treat writers like mushrooms. Which by itself is an incentive to indie.) and you know it, the tendency is to try to make up a logical explanation for things.
This is becoming more and more a problem as our news media is completely, blatantly and unreliable (to be fair they probably always were, but now we have other sources of information. RAH said he’d never been present at any event that was correctly reported in the media. My experience is the same. And sometime ask Dave Freer about “police in South Africa are sending attack dogs against protesters.” Because the story is a good example of things I’ve lived through and how they were reported in international media.) and we’ve also stopped trusting institutions like the FBI.
I’ll note in passing that for that sort of institution ONE slip up that’s found out will destroy everyone’s confidence in everything you’ve ever done and said. And it will take years to build up again. No, seriously. In a way it’s unfair, but then again it’s not. Because you’re either incorruptible, or you’re corrupt. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but mistakes need to be admitted to and publicly cleaned up. Caesar’s wife and all that.
So this brings us back to what people are doing, since nobody knows anything and all information is corrupt, and that amounts to: making up Stories. Some of them very convincing stories, unless you have information to the contrary or start to poke holes in them. I’m prone to them, now and then, until I pull back and get a reality check and make sure it doesn’t bounce.
What is the problem with making stories?
Well, one of them eventually wins and has nothing to do with reality. Particularly in disturbed times — oh, hello 2019/2020! — it’s very easy for the most poisonous, the most emotionally satisfying “just so” story to take hold. One that makes you feel good and superior and not only absolves you of all guilt, but also gives you an extra pat on the back, either for being smart, or good, or simply being one of the “chosen” to follow the CORRECT path to the future.
We’re seeing a version of this on the left, which now equates anyone non-Marxist with white supremacist. (Literally. There was an idiot accusing me of that yesterday.) If you say you’re a patriot, they say you’re a white supremacist, because what you really MEAN is “white America, the way it used to be.” Which means they either don’t know history or think you don’t. And their story is so compelling, partly because it absolves them for allegiance to what they are increasingly realizing is a cray and destructive ideology (trust me, most of them do) because it’s the least of two evils. They don’t want to be white supremacists, after all. Because that’s literally Hitler.
And the more they convince themselves of this insanity, the more they say things like we should all be in camps. And they do it with complete and absolute refusal to see they’ve become the Nazis who want full government control so they can put people in camps.
The problem is that people horrified by this might simply turn the narrative around. Not even that difficult, since there’s a lot of racism in leftist projection and white knighting. In a way the left is already creating white supremacists, because kids who don’t know any better know the left wants to kill them, and turns it around.
But it can and does get worse. We are in troubling, confusing times. It’s easier to blame someone than to fight to keep the constitutional republic.
The traditional scapegoat of cultures in crisis is the Jews. We’re already seeing that on the left, whose ghost dance is turning more and more anti-semitic.
On the right the groping for a theory by and large is tending more to the “there is a lot going on we don’t hear about.” Which is absolutely true. But is also a narrative looking for a scapegoat.
By all means, hold the left to their acts and words. They’re damning enough. But don’t make up stories. And above all don’t buy their stories.
The stakes are very high, and if you create a narrative — like with socialism — it becomes remarkably hard to escape.
If you find yourself haunting websites for weird coincidences, remember reality is choc full of them (to the point sometimes one wonders if there’s really only 100 real people in the world and the rest are NPCs. Which is a story you should at all costs avoid believing in), life is full of them. Sometimes they’re only “coincidences” because of your peculiar pov.
For instance, there was a Sarah A. Hoyt in the springs, 28 years ago who looked so much like me people who knew us confused us. And her son, Robert, was a class before mine in school. Worse, she and her husband (Dan) moved ahead of us from North Carolina, staying at the same hotels, with their son and their cat. I never asked if the cat was Pete, because seriously, but I wouldn’t even be surprised if he were.
Does this mean anything? Probably not. I’d have to know the full statistical distribution of Sarahs, Dans, Roberts and how many people were moving from NC to Colorado at that time.
More importantly, one freakish factor — the hotels we stayed in — is mitigated by the fact that we chose the only hotels within a day-ish of driving that took pets. Which meant usually one hotel per location. So, since they were traveling with a cat…
If you find yourself perusing coincidences, I say, realize they happen all the time in reality. It’s in novels that they’re forbidden (and even then only if they HELP your character.)
If you find yourself reading the other person’s mind. As in, thinking “I love American” means “white America” realize you’re not psychic. Those thoughts in your head? they’re yours. Examine why you want to believe this, and what purpose it’s serving FOR YOU. Because your mind is the only one you can read.
If you find yourself concocting a story where everything fits “just so” beware it’s a lie. In reality things never fit that well. Mostly because you’re going to find yourself in situations where you can’t READ why someone did something. You can make inferences. And sometimes you’ll be right, but if it involves something complex, like financial or political chicanery, or traditional publishing, or even job politics, you’re probably wrong. You’re certainly wrong if it all makes perfect sense, because PEOPLE don’t. For instance, they’re quite able to forego profit to gratify their personal grudge against someone who never actually meant them any harm. They will toss friendships because they “know” their friend (who has no such power) is “working against them.” Etc, etc, etc.
Reality isn’t RATIONAL. Only fiction is.
And reality is never ever ever SEAMLESS. The smartest people are dumb as rocks sometimes. And dumb people have flashes of brilliance. Friendships break, and enemies sometimes work together.
And if you find yourself thinking of any large group working in concert over centuries — the Templars! The Illuminati! The brotherhood of Mong! or worse Jews! Men! White People! — it’s time to step away and get a reality check.
The left has managed to have people going sort-ish the same way for 100 years, mostly by making their philosophy “what any smart person believes.” And even then their “distributed conspiracy” is all thumbs. Without the press covering up for them, it would have fallen apart long ago. (And the press is a small and hierarchical community. All you need to capture is a few dozen who all know each other/are friends and the rest will ape them.)
In fact, it IS falling apart, which is part of the reason cracks in the facade are appearing, making people feel uncertain and create narratives.
Keep your sanity. Keep in touch with reality.
We’re going to need both, to get out of this mess with a Republic, if we can keep it.