The Crisis of Narrative Coherence

Anyone who sees a crisis coming should warn others.
I see a crisis coming.
One that’s manifesting in confusion, anxiety and depression.
And the resulting societal fallout.
Intolerance, disengagement, substance abuse, excessive consumption, addictive technologies.
And it’s likely to get worse.
Because our collective illusion is shattering.
As we unexpectedly awaken to the chaotic reality of a hyper-connected world.
Which is at odds with the coherent nature of our narrative identities.
Our sense of self as the hero in a clear, empowering and auspicious drama.
Yet even though the signs are pervasive.
We continue to fight the disorder of human existence.
Erroneously believing that a solution lies in discovering the “truth” of the external world.
Or in rendering it to our wills.
And so we continue our vain attempts.
To reimagine and rewrite reality.
Or to control our environment.
Including the people in it.
To make it fit our uptight personal narratives.
Our conditioned beliefs of what’s good and bad.
Right and wrong.
Success and failure.
Which is a sure fire recipe for the aforementioned conditions.
So what’s the solution?
Pessimistic resignation?
Stoic resolve?
Sit back and wait?
What’s desperately needed is a revolution.
A new way of thinking and behaving.
We need to re-examine the founding doctrines of human cognition.
Reframe our interpretation of reality.
And rebel against our story-creating instinct.
We have to let go of our personal pasts and futures.
And throw ourselves into the present.
With a sense of curiosity and energy.
And a spirit of compassion and creativity.
In his book “Blink,” Malcolm Gladwell argues.
“We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem.”
Yes we do.
And the most pernicious story is the one titled “I, me, my.”
Which has caused every human conflict.
From Cain and Abel and the Battle of Zhuolu.
To our political divide and the spread of terrorism.
So let’s abandon narrative living.
Our self-concerned, linear, goal-obsessed storyline.
And let’s live a soulful, poetic life.
Let’s open our eyes to the magnificence of existence.
And to the complex and dynamic interconnection of all people and things.
Because life is indeed a strange and beautiful experience.
Unless we think it should follow a particular script.

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Wake up.

I’m working on an oil painting.
A portrait of a client.
I’m creating it from a photo.
One shot casually and… stealthily.
As I paint, I naturally refer to that image.
A source of inspiration that no one has ever seen.
Nor will ever see.
And yet, I find myself curiously constrained by it.
As if someone is watching me and judging my creation.
I used to feel a similar, dream-like self-consciousness.
Early on in my professional speaking career.
I felt the need to be… perfect.
As if everyone in the audience held a copy of my speech.
And would be assessing my performance.
Thankfully, it finally dawned on me.
There is no script!
I woke up to the fact that no one has a clue what I am going to say or do.
So there is no reason to feel anxious or self-conscious.
The same goes for you and your work.
We are not here to play a role in other people’s dramas.
By staying “in character.”
Trying to gauge their expectations and assessment.
We’re here to improvise and uniquely express ourselves.
We’re here to move people.
Emotionally and intellectually.
We’re here to change things.
To bring a spark of inspiration and joy to an increasingly complacent and hostile world.
So let’s try something new (it can’t hurt).
Let’s wake up.
Let’s forget about how we appear to others.
Step out of our stifling roles.
And live our truths, from the inside out.
And let’s do it with no expectations.
For as John Lennon made clear:
“When you do something noble and beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad.
For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps.”
Have a wonderful holiday season.
And be a beautiful spectacle in 2018.