You, Me and Stories

What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing more powerful than a good story.

Season 8, Game of Thrones.

Mother Nature! What exactly is this ‘Nature’? She is associated with all favorable adjectives – beautiful, peaceful, spectacular, heavenly and motherly. Collectively we have decided to define nature as everything that is not a product of human mind. All phenomena that have nothing to do with humans are considered ‘natural’. This includes a whole lot of things – from air, water, trees to earthquakes and hurricanes. But not the plastic – the most hated thing in this universe. In terms of the size, human and his products are insignificant compared to the vastness of everything else. But still we have a ‘Us vs Nature’ going on with this arbitrary definition of nature. Language has a very powerful influence on human mind. Words convey an idea not just by its literal meaning, but also using the connotative power. May be nature is not as pretty as we think. She gave birth to life but She also concocted death. Nature demonstrates a lawful behavior with no discrimination or discretion. All natural phenomena only have a cause and effect relationships. She has no virtues nor any ethical principles. She is in a constant motion, and She changes precisely according to Her laws. If a child falls from a height of 10 feet, the child will follow the same laws of motion as a rock. They both gain speed as they get closer to the floor and hit the ground with a force that can be precisely calculated by the equations of motion. Nature shows no consideration to the eyes or the smile of the child. She only looks at the mass of the child and if it is same as the rock, then both will have the same force of impact. Nature is heartless, mindless and purposeless. She is an unstoppable force whose actions are dictated by ironclad laws.

Nature is red in tooth and claw

Alfred Tennyson

Like Nature, the human mind also generates action and make changes in the world around itself. These action arises from the so called ‘free will’ of the owner. Mind does not work according to any unyielding principles like nature. It changes action during the lifetime of an individual and sometimes it changes from one moment to another. It works according to the simple principle of ‘likes and dislikes’ of the mind. All stories of right, wrong, good, bad, better and worse were wrung by the mind to align it’s likes with those of the rest of the world. Though these stories are purely imaginative, yet, they need to be conceived on the premises of some fundamental truth for it to spread and survive. There is no better force than fear. Fear in human mind, is like gravity in nature, it moves things. Fear of death and self preservation have been the foundation for most stories. Once the story is believed by a large group of people then it becomes a ‘cultural truth’ – A truth that is applicable only for the human mind. In the grand scheme of things, none of the human actions make things better or worse for nature. It only make things different in an infinitely small part of the universe. The concept of better and worse are only a perceptual reality.

Some stories are created by an individual for his own self interest in a small unit like a family or organization and it usually does not last long. Stories like religion and nation that are created for the welfare of a large group of people are usually robust and last for centuries. Human rights is a story for the humanity. But surely it does not care about chickens and pigs. In reality these concepts exist only in the human mind. Monkeys wouldn’t believe it and nature has no eyes or ears.

Myth has its charm but truth is far more beautiful

Robert Oppenheimer

The most interesting story human mind has ever created is the story of yellow metal. Other equally impressive stories that we have created and have been a great influencers of human action are the concept of money, theory of God as the creator and manager of day to day activities, stories of afterlife, sanctity of the nation or language. None of these have any real physical meaning. If human beings are wiped out of existence then all of these will die with us. Nevertheless these stories have enormous impact on our life. A pound of yellow metal can extract a lifetime of work from a human body. There is no physical need for this metal. There is no genetic code in the DNA to make humans crave for this metal.

Understanding and playing an integral role in stories that binds the society together is key for surviving in the society. There are different kinds of it and each one has its charm. Some people are well suited for the dominant and prevailing stories that are played in the society and they do well while the rest who are not a good match either due to their nature or nurture feels like being caught in the web where their likes and dislikes are not aligned with the stories of the society. The outliers can create a new story of their own but it should have the power to influence the mind and spread, for it to topple the status quo. The definition of a successful person is the one who is well suited for the story of the society. However it does not last forever. The successful person can age, get ill or he is no longer the perfect actor or the norms of the story itself may change. Now the roles will be swapped. The story of “the haves and the have nots” goes on and on in this cycle – Nature’s most favorite!

3 thoughts on “You, Me and Stories

  1. Hi Suresh,
    A good writeup …But a few things that I do not agree with completely … Is plastic the most hated thing in the universe because of its properties or because it was misused by the human society? Anything for that matter can become hated when misused. Ex: Fire, mobile phones, nuclear power and the list goes on. When we talk about likes and dislikes, fear of death etc, we are referring to that part of our mind which works on pleasure principle. But humans have a evolutionary gift of another part of mind. Please read a book by title ‘The Chimp Paradox’ . Also the strive for yellow metal is to me a strive for life as you can exchange the yellow metal for food, water and shelter. The yellow metal doesnt lose its value … Thats why the terminology ‘Gold Standard’ …. Not all stories can bind people … So many films fail in the box office … Only a few succeed, probably because they are a reflection of human desire, life or emotions … While stories will die with death of mankind, some charecters of our stories like the Sun, Moon and the stars will remain until eternity … Keep up with your good work

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The sentence on Plastic was meant to be a ridicule and I agree with you.
      “Likes and dislikes” I just thought that it is probably a simple way of seeing how mind works. May be it is just how my mind works.
      Gold – Yes, I meant the same. The story connects the valueless metal with fundamental elements.
      Yes, not all stories are successful.


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