“Story ate the world. I’m biting back.” — Crooked Timber:
Our era is drenched in narrative. From the beguiling flame spiral of neoliberalism’s end of ‘grand narratives’, to Trump’s three and four word (lock her up / maga) death cult ultra-short stories of destruction, to our helpless fascination with the far right’s ability to govern by unverified sound-bite, to the fact that every shitty little marketer on the Internet now calls themselves a ‘storyteller’; story has eaten the world. Our preferred form of storytelling is so obsessed with endings that we’re convinced we’re ring-side at the biggest, baddest, worst ending ever – that of the centuries of Reason and their faithful but unfortunately carbon-emitting Engines of Progress. We love endings, revere protagonists, and not so secretly long for their mutual culmination in a fiery end of glorious and gorgeously terminal self-actualisation. Our whole mode of future-imagining is a death cult. We literally cannot imagine the world after us.
I think there is a lot to this idea. There are all sorts of stories we can tell about the random sequence of events around us. Some of those stories can be helpful, others less so.
The problems arise when we take these stories and convince ourselves that they are true—or that there is a one-to-one mapping between the story and the real world—rather than constructs that can be picked up and discarded as their usefulness waxes and wanes.