Stories we tell ourselves

Why do we tell ourselves stories? Joan Didion said that we do that in order to live. Maybe that’s true of some stories. Knitting together the real and fanciful pieces of our personal histories and then weaving them into a larger tapestry we call the human experience helps us see ourselves as something other than what we are: transient sparks of light in an unutterable void.

But some stories that we’ve incorporated into our lives are killing us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Here are a half dozen.

  • It’s normal to believe the lies of marketing campaigns and to act as though our identities and happiness revolve around consumer products like cigarettes, cars, water in plastic bottles, dryer sheets, food-like junk, the latest phone, exercise gadgets, designer anything, etc.
  • The straight line from exploiting limited natural resources to create crappy consumer products which are soon thrown away as polluting rubbish is good for the economy and, therefore, good for humanity.
  • It’s tolerable for large groups of human beings to live in miserable poverty while the super-rich trash the planet and hide out on their yachts or behind the security perimeters of their compounds.
  • There’s a solution to every problem, so we can close our eyes to the destruction we’re inflicting on our mother the Earth because someone, somewhere, sometime soon will find a way to fix it for us.
  • It’s acceptable to surrender our minds to liars, grifters, and bullshitters (i. e., politicians, conspiracy theorists, assorted sociopaths, etc.) as long as they give lip service to our pet beliefs and make life comfortable for us.
  • Truth and opinion are synonymous, and because you have your “freedoms” and “rights,” your opinion trumps the reality of those who know more than you do.

I doubt that I’m telling you anything you don’t already know, and I’m sure you’re aware of other pernicious stories we tell ourselves as individuals or as a resident species on our mother the Earth. I have no remedy for the prevalence of self-deception. I’ve resolved to just do the best I can to catch myself when I’m telling myself lies and to refuse permission to those who’d like to infect me with their bullshit. I have found this to be really hard.

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