The real world and the narrative world
We each inhabit two very different worlds simultaneously: the real world, and the narrative world.
The real world is the physical world of matter, of atoms and molecules and stars and planets and animals wandering around pursuing to bite and copulate with each other. Science does not yet understand much of this world, but it can reasonably be said to have some degree of existence to it.
The narrative world is made of stories, of thoughts chatter about what’s going on. It is only related to the real world in the loosest of terms, and commonly has no relation to the real world whatsoever.
In the narrative world you exist as a person with a certain name and a certain life story with a mountain of adjectives attached to you, some believed consciously and some believed subconsciously. You are this, you are that. You are inadequate. You are inferior. You are clever. You are fat. You are unlovable. Whatever. Words, words, words, words, words.
In the real world what you think of as “you” exists as an organism, breathing and digesting and pulsing and moving in the appearance of time. No thoughts or words need to occur for this organism to exist; it just is whatever it is.
In the narrative world, your surroundings are experienced as friends and foes, good and bad, right and wrong, threatening and non-threatening. Churning, babbling stories about what’s occurring pervade the experience of the narrative world: those people over there are bad people and should be punished. Those people over there are the good people and they should be rewarded. That man is blah blah blah. That woman is this and that.
In the real world, your surroundings are experienced as raw sensory data: sensory impressions arising in each point in spacetime. Breath going in, breath going out. The feeling of feet on the ground. Sound of a bird call. Sight of a passing car. It’s all just occurring as it is, as whatever it is. Simple. Present.
In the narrative world, the world states changed dramatically in the last two years. If you live in one narrative echo chamber it transformed dramatically for the better, if you live in the other narrative echo chamber it changed dramatically for the worse. But throughout the narrative world most agree that the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 marked a very real and significant turn of events.
In the real world, events are moving in pretty much the same ways they were before end 2019. The money is moving in more or less the same directions at more or less the same rates. The weapons and troops are moving to more or less the same places in basically the same ways as before. The resources are behaving in essentially the same way. The people are moving in pretty much the same way. The actual, physical dynamics have remained predominantly unmodified.
The real world and the narrative world could not be more different. Skilled manipulators exploit these differences for their benefit like foreign exchange traders exploit the differences in world currency values. A religious manipulator can get you to hand over your real currency in exchange for narrative currency about eternal salvation or spiritual purification. A sexual predator can manipulate you into trading the real currency of sex for the narrative currency of “I think I’m in love with you”. A politician can manipulate you into trading the real currency of votes for the narrative currency of whatever they say on the campaign trail.
It’s very hard to control people in the real world by just using the means that are available in the real world. If you’re bigger and stronger than someone you can get them to hand over their sandwich by hitting them, or if you have a big stick or something. If you want to exert a large amount of control over a large number of people, though, you generally have to seize that control through the narrative world.
It’s easier to control people through the narrative world than the real world because the narrative world and its relationship with the real world is too complicated for most people to understand, whereas the real world is quite simple and straightforward. For this reason, a tremendous amount of energy goes into controlling the dominant narratives, the dominant stories that people tell about what’s going on in the world.
Convince people to accept the narrative that a government’s leader is an evil dictator in need of regime modification, and you can trade that narrative for real world control over a crucial geostrategic region. Convince people to accept that the status quo is working fine and any attempts to transform it are dangerous insanity, and you ensure that people will never rise up and take away your real world control. Convince people that anyone questioning your narratives is a conspiracy theorist or a Russian propagandist, and you ensure your continued hegemonic control over the narrative world.
The most powerful manipulators are the ones who have succeeded in exerting control over both the real world and the narrative world, and they pursue both agendas with equal emphasis. Populations in the real world who insist upon their own national, resource, financial, economic or military sovereignty are subject to real world attacks by bombs, starvation sanctions and special ops. Entities in the narrative world which threaten imperial narrative domination are attacked, smeared, marginalized and censored.
That’s all we are seeing with the increasingly shrill mainstream panic about disinformation, conspiracy theories, foreign propaganda and domestic extremism. The rulers and their media lackeys are not compassionately protecting us from deception, they are ensuring that they remain the only ones authorized to administer deception. By golly the only ones allowed to deceive us should be the government, the news media, the teachers and the priests.
The narrative world is getting more and more frenzied while the real world is headed toward disaster due to the military and ecological pressures created by the status quo. There are only a few ways this can possibly break, with the most obvious being mass scale climate disaster or nuclear war.
There is also the possibility that the human species goes the other way and adapts. Organisms always wind up hitting a juncture where they either adapt to a new situation or go extinct, and we are approaching our juncture now.
Throughout recorded history, all around the globe, wise humans have been attesting that it is possible to transcend our delusion-rooted conditioning and come to a lucid perception of the narrative world and reality. There are many names for this lucid perception, but the one that caught on most widely is enlightenment. We all have this potential within us. It has been gestating in us for many millennia. As we approach our adaptation-or-extinction juncture, we are very close indeed to learning if that potential will awaken in us or not.
If it does, a healthy and harmonious world will shift from being an unimaginable pipe dream to something very achievable. No longer confused about the relationship between the real world and the narrative world, we will be able to perceive our actual situation clearly, unfiltered by manipulation, and begin collaborating to build something beautiful and unprecedented.
Once we move out of our narrative manipulation-driven model of competition and domination, and into a lucidity-driven model of collaboration with each other and with our ecosystem, a lasting peace will open up to us all.
January 14, 2022