Maps of Meaning – Stories

I’m going to attempt to process a whole bunch of recent ideas simultaneously. Bear in mind I am writing this at 3 AM, so cut me a little slack. Sleepless nights have become a regular occurrence ever since I got into business 6 months ago. Problems… problems which assume incredible importance, even if I’m not sure why, demand attention from me and 3 AM, lying in the dark, is the perfect opportunity for the problems to attack my mind.

I’m learning about the significance of stories. Why do we tell each other stories? Why are they so important? Why are fictional stories so gripping at times? Even if they aren’t “real”. Stories are, essentially, how we understand the world. Our mind is constantly telling ourselves a story. We are the protagonist, we have problems, we have a direction (or maybe the problem is a lack of direction), and our story is how we are going to deal with those problems in order to move forward towards our desired reality. Just like all stories we tell.

All stories have a hero, or at least a focal point. This hero or focal point acts as a vessel for communicating a proposal. This proposal is an offer of action. All stories represent the world in some way, all stories have problems, and all stories are attempts to communicate or further understand how we ought to act in order to transform those problems into the domain of order, comfort, and control. While the problems remain problems, they remain in the domain of chaos, and all stories are about 3 things – order, chaos, and the process which transforms one into another.

Our social, narrative driven, communicative existence is comprised of stories. The stories that we tell, that we are exposed to, that make up our life, literally shape the world around us. Depending on the story which we chose to inhabit, our perception of the world changes. There is a literal, biological shift that takes place when we change our story. For example, if the current stage of our story involves driving to the grocery store, then the significant forces at play vary dramatically vs when our current story is that of watching Nascar. When we are on our way to the store – fast, unpredictable drivers are bad. When we are watching Nascar, fast, unpredictable drivers are entertaining, and in a way, good, because it makes our current reality more desirable, compelling and interesting.

The context of our current position, our desired destination, and our experienced past, make up our definition of good and bad. Things that move us towards our desired destination are labelled good, things that move us away are bad. Good things grip our emotional, motivational being, and take the form of a promising or satisfying good. Bad things grip our emotions in the form of a threatening or punishing bad. We experience positive or negative emotion depending on if a thing is good or bad, or in other words, whether or not it moves us toward our desired end or away. Things that do neither, which is usually most of the world, are regarded as insignificant.

Fiction provides us a realm for play. Play is a key component of transforming chaos into order. Play is the part of the process where we push boundaries, experiment, and explore. Fiction is, in a sense, much more real than nonfiction. Nonfiction is always a means of looking back and examining the past in order to cultivate tools to explore the future. But fiction, fiction is our future. We all inhabit a fictional world, comprised of different characters, settings, tools etc. Just like the fictional worlds in story books and movies. Our fiction places us at centre stage, and is the story of how we move through the world, deal with our problems, and move towards our desired destination.

A good story features interesting problems and productive actions which are applicable across a wide range of experience. We are entranced by people of immense life experience because they live in a fundamentally different world. Not only metaphorically, but their biology is literally different because they perceive, understand, act and think differently, because they have adapted differently. People who have lived a life full of adventure, of creative exploration, people who have “seen it all” are incredibly fascinating to us because we all instinctively know they can teach us so much.

The destination of our story, our heaven, our promised land, pulls us forward and grips our motivation. The more desirable the end, the more motivation it provides. Conversely, the problems which plague us threaten literal destruction of our current conceived reality and possible future. Full born manifestation of our problems can accurately be deemed as hell, a place where our story is destroyed eternally.

All stories have a destination, an end, a desired state. The purpose of all stories we share lies in the “moral” of the story. All stories have a lesson, a proposal of action for how we ought to act in a given scenario. Stories provide us with the ground for proposing action in the world. Stories propose possible destinations, promised lands, to move towards. Stories stimulate our imagination, and our imaginative future stimulates our motivation and actions.

Fictional stories, literature, great fictional movies, also “real” stories, are all compelling and deemed great thanks to the maps they provide of the world. It’s funny, we can’t watch a movie or story that is not believable in some way. We are able and willing to instantly swallow the fact that Spiderman shoots webs out of holes in his wrists in order zip around New York, but if Mary Jane doesn’t react appropriately to discovering Peter Parker is Spiderman, we lose interest and scold the storytelling for being unrealistic.

What kind of story do you want to inhabit? What do you want your destination to be? Maybe there is no destination that truly stimulates your motivation. But even then you’re plagued with the issue of discovering that destination. Fiction can provide wonderful insight into what kind of destination might be worth while to you. Ask yourself, which stories gripped you? Which characters, settings, desired outcomes did you admire? There is something there, waiting to be discovered and explored.

What kind of world do you want to inhabit? You may find it is extremely intuitive and easy to place yourself in a story which moves your reality towards that world. And you may also find incredible motivation for moving towards that world. Taking on a story, a pursuit, is exactly what gives rise to meaning in your life. Meaning is an emotional sensation. Meaning, or possibly better described as significance, is the value which surrounds the things in your story. Someone who’s life is full of meaning is full of emotion, motivation, and passion, all of which is provided by the story. The stronger the story, the more significant things become which move us towards or away from our promised land. To take on the strongest conceivable story is a burden which bares incredible weight, but is also a compulsion which we all have.

Enjoy your journey, enjoy your story, find your story.

Hustle It Up.

P.S. For more information, and the source material of these ideas google “Maps of Meaning”. It is a book by Jordan Peterson, and has proven shockingly insightful for me.

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