Imagine every event is a drop of water. Every experience that you’ve ever had, every decision a friend has ever made, every change in the weather, every blown out tire and top news story on CNN.com – all drops of water. Discrete bits of the human story, separate and distinct with no plot, no narrative.
Now, imagine those drops of water are a river. No longer separate, no longer unique, all part of a white-frothed monster crashing through paths cut into stone riverbed. The Colorado River of Life. The Narrative. Each experience is a single drop of water, a single discrete bundle of linked hydrogen and oxygen. And each one is tied to the next and the last by that current. Our human nature. Our fears and hopes and dreams. The culture we live in, the things held up and called precious. These are the things that shape the story we see when we look back. They are the current and the riverbed: always pushing forward, crushing and rushing and slamming us into the next set of choices, of decisions.
A friend betrays me, after ten years of trust. Quick! What do I do? The current is fast, and strong: a split second and the moment will have passed, my decision made for me. Bitterness, anger, cynicism. A smirk at him and a solemn ‘Fuck you.’ The current pulls me forward with the the inevitability of a gunshot. Thounsands of years of human experience, of human nature and love and hate and loss and life have cut deep into the stone of the riverbed, and the water – The Narrative – sticks to its course.
Are we slaves to it? No. We have our choices, our options, our free will. But The Narrative is our only light on the past, the only vision we have for the future. The choices that we see for ourselves are the ones that it presents. Even if a better one exists, The Narrative’s force, its momentum, the current of that great river, will push us past it before we have time to shift our course. We are, in many ways, bound to the options that this story offers us. I talk about it like a Thing, like an intelligence that shapes us. But in reality, the Narrative is simply us. The combined weight of our decisions and our interperetations, pressing down on our shoulders, robbing us of options and pushing us to second-bests because they remind us of a movie we once saw.
That’s the power of The Narrative.