Had a little argument today, and it brought me into an interesting discussion. A friend suggested we building positive social movements, must build our myths and stories too, and too not forget such stories are core to political movements through history. Before I had even seen the message another had popped up to say that “we (of a certain ideology) don’t truck in myths” but that comment immediately gave me pause, and I don’t agree with the statement.
Story is central to the human, in that it is central to how we communicate. Existence as complex entities is an immense world filled other complex entities and processes means it’s functionally impossible to describe even basic experiences in anything like a reasonable time frame and retain all the information of said experience. Your eating a sandwich what does an all inclusive summary look like? How did you skin feel, what was the lighting like, what happens earlier in the day, what are you sitting on, give a fully detailed description of the room, your clothing how it feels and smells… and so on and we haven’t even got to the sandwich yet.
So of course how your pants sit on your frame isn’t terrible relevant, but perhaps the conversation you had right before does effect things a little, or maybe a lot. There can be a lot of context in our surrounding, but we have to choose to convey what is or is not important, when we choose communicate something. We have to be choosy as a matter of practicality. We really can’t share it all.
Even the most basic communication we are truncating, shortening, the full ideas in our head, the full experience, into small stories which attempt to convey the core essence. From a conversation about what you ate, to even a scientific paper. We are always crafting narratives to explain some aspect of experience, or the world. Some narratives are more rigorous then others. Such as in a science paper, there are several important stories built in. The Hypothesis, and story about how the researchers thought the world might be. Methods section, a recounting of what the researcher did. Results, a series of claims and data discussing what was found. And the conclusion an attempt to tie together all the prior stories into a useful set of ideas which can inform future researchers. Many cuts need to be made though the whole process, the journal will only allows so many pages, and even the most devoted reader only has so much patience and time.
So what is myth building as my friend was suggesting? Myth building is a tool we can use to lay plans for a better future, so should we choose that direction at least. We can, and I think should, consciously build stories that try to empower, and inform those around us. We all “truck in” myth whether we like it or not, and so I think should think hard about what kinds of myths we are growing and which we should spread around.