Tag Archives: stories

Thinking about stories

– The other night I read the transcript of a talk about stories. What it said, basically (I think), is that we humans like to impose order on chaos, which is why we describe our lives in terms of stories instead of the mess they might actually be. Also: stories are easy to remember and to share, which is another reason we like them and unthinkingly impose them.

– The other day I read a study about expressive writing (which basically means “stream-of-consciousness”, I think, but focused on a particular topic). Apparently it’s healthy. Humans feel better after expressing themselves, or so this study was suggesting.

– The other night while falling asleep I thought of something interesting that tied those two things together, but by the next morning I’d forgotten what it was. I stood in the kitchen and thought, “Well, it can’t have been very important if I’ve forgotten it already.” But then I realised that if stories are ways that we impose order on chaos, only mentioning the bits that fit the story structure, then it’s quite possible that we always leave the important bits out. Maybe the chaotic non-story incidental details are the important things. The fact that something is memorable doesn’t necessarily mean it’s important; it might only mean that it fits into a story, and we remember it because we remember stories more easily than whatever the unruly alternative would be.

– Presumably we feel better after expressing ourselves (those of us who do), because we’ve managed to put ideas and memories and et cetera into words and sentences: one thing after another, in a line, in order, in a nice neat procession – like walking. And the sentences go together to make a story of some sort, involving explanation and description and intention and consequences. From the chaos and mess we live in or react to, we make something that makes sense. We make sense – impose it, by leaving out all the bits that don’t fit the story. And then later we remember the story we’ve made rather than what happened itself. It’s easier to remember the story instead of the raw data – if it’s even possible to have raw data in our heads. (Maybe our perceptions are biased, and presumably all data comes in through our perceptions.) Maybe everything in our head is the equivalent of a false memory.