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Of Narrative Frames

November 7, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” – William Shakespeare in Sonnet 130

Just as Shakespeare saw the eyes of his mistress in contrast to a poetic standard, we are servants to ideas established in a time long before our birth. These standards come in narratives, frames of reference in which meaning is both communicated and supported. There are no unique thoughts, no personal perspectives; all we know is directly linked to our narratives.

Our comprehension of the world depends solely on the narratives we experience. We read of lands we’ll never “see”, we see a video of a moment lost to time. Every moment is beyond us but preserved inside a story. In order to comprehend the world we utilizeĀ  theseĀ  narratives to help us comprehend and predict the events in our society. Without our narratives we lose our experience and the false belief that we can predict what lies ahead. Though it is our greatest weakness, our use of narratives is a logical behavior and has helped us avoid dangerous situations. We are victims to an inductive reasoning method in which a narrative explains everything we know. No matter how much we pride our objective brains- so truth obsessed, so focused, it is our narratives that explain our world. There are no unique thoughts; instead in each emotion, every concept know the narrative provides it. Everything was thought before and, if deemed important by our society, repeated in our stories and entered into the narrative of our world.

Our narratives are like boxes. In each we have invested the collective thoughts and experienced deemed valuable by previous generations. Herein we find both positive and negative provisions. We have racism and stereotypes, the generalizations which our narratives provide us to believe we can simplify our world. We have our notions of the beautiful, the ugly and the right. What is wrong is explained inside the narrative. Every moment of behavior, minute details of the “what should be” exist protected and supported in our global narrative frame.

So inherent is our system of frames that we are only capable of seeing its existence when it is imitated poorly. When a person chooses to distort his or her individual features and adopt instead a character, they compose the character on the basis of “ideals” presented in our narrative frame. Politicians create characters rich in compassion, bravery and intelligence and yet fall victim to a standard beyond human nature. The narrative is lost and the metaphorical curtain lifts away and there exposed is raw, human nature.

The contemporary notion of “self” is an illusion. We are a static person whose perspectives and behaviors form in response to immediate situations. In a moment we are one thing and in another we transform into a different form. These are our narratives, the simple frames of reference in which we can invest our confidence on the basis that we’re in control and performing in accordance with expectation.

Though shallow and often incorrect, the narratives from which we use to interact and understand the world are universally utilized. Can we combat this human need for simplicity and focus? Likely not. Instead, I strive to recognize the narrative in play. Though I cannot discard the narrative I can consider the ways in which the narrative might be in play. I may never know its working, I may never see its presence but in questions I may slowly crack away at the evidence of usage.In doing so I can better understand my perspectives and cut away at the layering of narratives in which my world is framed. Doing so means simplification and focus and, if successful, the recognition of the newest frames made shoddy that want only quick, cheap power.

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