From Chaos to Story

It has always bothered me reading or listening to demythologizers because they would always unseat a story with a story and most of the time their story seemed just as made up as the story they were undermining because they asserted it was a “made up story”. The battle over the accounts in Genesis and contemporary replacement of them with scientific stories are perhaps the best example of it.

Story A: God, Garden, Adam, Eve, Snake, Civilization

Story B replacing story A: Big bang, cooling rocks, volcanism, ocean vents, life, crawling out of the sea, mammals, apes, humans, civilization.

Here’s something growing up a religious conservative you notice, that science’s story is always changing. This of course is the observation of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This is a book I read in college that blew my mind. It changed my perspective on how many things.

So then, as a religious conservative I said “ah ha! your story is always changing.”

But as someone who works everyday with religious texts, I have to admit that even with a set text, even with a canon, the story we tell ABOUT that set text is always changing. We hardly see the same text twice.

Now this might seem a collapse to the post-modern critique of texts but I don’t think it is. It is simply the realization of how human perception and comprehension works. We don’t comprehend or apprehend something, whether it be a static text or a static past because the past is just as static as a text but also more complex.

So it bothered me that whether they are scientists or demythologizers are simply replacing one story with another and often those stories are overturned. What history is are people telling a near infinite number of stories one after another. We appropriate and tribe up by this process. As I mentioned in yesterday’s video one way to look at history (yes, yet another story) is to imagine it as a competition between stories.

You have a tribe when you have enough people agreeing on enough of a story that they feel is relevant to their interests to act together in a collaborative way. This is in a sense Yuval Harari’s point about human beings transcending our genetics (family-bonds) as fictional animals.

What we are always doing is evaluating these stories and deciding for ourselves if we like them or don’t like them, find them compelling or uninteresting. This is what we do and with our nexted complicated framed set of interests see Maps of Meaning.

From Chaos to Story

Now I’ve been wrestling with the Jung story of how we get mythology as to whether or not I believe it. I critique that story like how many other new stories I encounter especially when I’ve got other cross pressures in my life that biases me against that story. As someone who not only grew up in a religiously conservative background and never gave it up, and am employed to maintain that tradition there are considerable pressures on me to bias me to defend it. If I violate those tenets and that community it might dislocate huge parts of my life and lead me into the chaos of conflict and unemployment and poverty and shame and disgrace. Communities are like this. Jordan Peterson’s story itself is one like this with that “open letter” demanding is firing. This is how this stuff works, so I’ve got to be careful how I process this.

Yet on the other hand I also have to be authentic. I think about John Suk’s story because that was his story, leaving the CRC because he came to believe something different.

So I was skeptical of the Jung story from chaos to myth until I realized that I myself was following this story and every de-mythologizing story was itself following the story from chaos to myth. The critics of myth like Sam Harris are themselves myth makers. We can’t escape it the moment we tell another story even if we revising a story.

This is the hypocrisy of the post-moderns as Peterson is nothing that they declare skepticism on all grand narratives and then proceed to establish their own grand narrative. They imagine that because their grand narrative declares skepticism of grand narratives that it itself is immune rather than simply being another example of plain old hypocrisy.

This blog post itself is an example of it. I am telling a story about the stories.

relationship between spoken dreamed and acted

The Steps from Chaos to Story

  1. Your in chaos which is both ontological and existential. It is both out in meat-space and in our experiential frame. We have the unknown as such
  2. We act in the unknown as such. This gets picked up in our dream-level and is captured and processed by our unconscious self, Haidt’s elephant, the personalities behind the conscious self. It gets represented first in dreams or at the dream level.
  3. Then we start to talk about it. This is why talking is part of processing, what Peterson is doing in his videos. What I’m doing in my blogging and my youtubing. We tell stories because stories are to tell how you represent how you act.

Now this is also why our stories are also biased because they are based on how we act. This is part of the post-hoc nature of our story telling.

And Then We Feel Compelled to Tell and Propagate the Story

This is a step beyond what Peterson is saying but it is exactly what he is doing. This is why we get excited and talk and blog and youtube and write. This is why Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson and Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and Democrats and Republicans and Liberatians and anarchists and communists and and and do what they do.

Stories possess us. We like to personify genes as actors as we tell the Darwin story, but perhaps the story of civilization is the story of how fiction trumped genetics.


About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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