Your Storytelling Ritual

Why do people tell stories? There’s the obvious reason that people tell stories for entertainment. But entertainment doesn’t account for the thousands of repeated stories we tell only ourselves.

Storytelling is a transformation ritual. They are tools that are ment to get you from the person you are to the person you are aiming at becoming. Similar to how art is a way of healing your wounds while simultaneously exposing them. If that sounds like a plausible enough motive for storytelling, I’ll take it one step further and say, every judgment you make about yourself is a story.

There are the stories that build walls:

  • “I could never do anything like that.”
  • “I don’t believe in love like that.”
  • “Maybe one day, if I get lucky.”

And there are stories that build bridges:

  • “If not me, who?”
  • “I’ll make it happen. I have too.”
  • “Who is going to stop me?”

The entire mental model you have to yourself is a tangled mess of stories, and you are telling those stories for a reason.

The elephant’s dilemma is a sad but beautiful story:

I once went to a circus and saw a huge elephant tied to a small pole with a rope, just standing there. So I wondered why the elephant is so obedient and doesn’t break away from the stick with all of its enormous strength and mass.

So they told me this story: once when the elephant was very young, it was tied to the pole the same way. Naturally, it didn’t like that and tried to escape, but try as it might, the rope and the pole were too strong for it. The rope is tied so well they cannot break it. And so it learns the rope keeps them in place. So the elephant eventually gave up. And when it grows older, it keeps on believing it could not escape from the rope, and remains standing in the same place, despite the fact it could then easily escape.

I don’t know who originated the original storybut I’d appreciate any insights or leads for its source.

We live in a culture that has told stories for thousands of years, and rarely if ever is anyone told why we tell stories and why the stories matter. The reason is: life is unbelievably complicated, and our brains have a limited capability in simplifying those complexities into the optimal outcomes. Instead, we most easily see options that appeal to emotional disposition. We see the future we want to be true. And if that future is in agreement with the reality, we can manifest our intentions as a apart of that reality.

At any given moment, there are an infinite number of roads you can walk; your identities and your judgments all come together to move you on one path forward.

Humans share one world, but each person has their own collections of personas that shift the peaks and valleys on their landscape. Every story is its own map, with its own trails to walk and mountains to surmount.

People tell stories so they can live them.

What stories you are telling? And are they in accordance with reality?

How To Tell The Truth

Often I feel like I’m censoring myself, and this is a problem because censorship is not exactly conducive to great communication. At its best, the truth comes out clear, pointed, and direct. At worst it comes out insensitive, rude, and clearly for my own amusement. More often it comes out somewhere in between, dancing around the inoffensive and the somewhat vague notion of any worthwhile conclusions.

Truth is the art of poetry and the science of comedy.

There are so many ways to tell the truth ineffectively. There are truths that don’t matter, truths with bad timing, truths that get people imprisoned or killed.

Nietzsche said, “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” Often people don’t want to tell the truth because they don’t want the title of Destroyer of Illusions. The avenues of poetry and comedy give us some indication of how to tell the truth in a way that it can actually be heard.

As a way of purging any of my inclination of untruths, half-truths, or post-truths here are 10 of the most controversial things I could think of in 10 minutes:

  1. Women are beautiful partly because we are weak. Without the seperation of power between men and women, women would have never had the opportunity to develop power through beauty.
  2. Men have the capacity to be the most violent creatures on earth, and that’s why women love them.
  3. The parts of gender that are a socially constructed today, are the parts that will be genetically engineered tomorrow.
  4. Atheists are right about so many things, everything they’re wrong about is religion.
  5. Some things you can measure don’t exist, other things you could never measure obviously do.
  6. If the poor were ever honest about their vices they might have to stop enabling us.
  7. It’s a lot easier to wrap your identity around your poor choices than it is to start making better choices.
  8. The only thing I regret are my mistakes.
  9. Those who want more freedoms know it comes with extra responsibilities. Those who try to sell their freedoms think the trade works both ways.
  10. If you were to tell the truth, you would be found out.

How and Why Religions Die // The Lost History of Christianity by Philip Jenkins

I found the book in a local bookstore near the local farmers market, and opened it up to this quote:

May religions perish of disease or only violence?

James Bissett Pratt

It is an interesting question, how a religion lives and dies? If we’re interested in preserving or ending a religion, we ought to know what its weaknesses are.

Nietzsche said,

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

Nietzsche believed that rejection of God would force us to reject absolute values themselves. A hundred years later we see that this is obviously true to some degree. We see it in the cultural acceptance of nihilism and moral relativism. We see it in the media and in pop culture. But people are tired of living meaningless inherent in nihilism, and a counterculture is growing in response.

Universally preferable behavior (UPB), the non-aggression principle (NAP), the moral landscape and the concept of using science to determine human values all exist as atheistic laws of objective morality. We need a philosophy of ethics to fill the casket of a dead god.

Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Nietzsche

Eastern Christianity expressed Nietzsche’s same sentiment with a slightly more optimistic tone some several hundred years before,

For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.

AthanasiusBishop of Alexandria

The concept of the Holy Trinity in Christianity is one just one place where the religion crosses the line between reality and the mystical. Humans abstracted the idea of God to be the ideal of perfection. A perfection we knew we would never obtain, so we could spend the rest of our lives trying desperately to obtain it.


The Lost History of A Global Christianity

As sad as it is to admit, the majority of Americans know nothing about the history of Christianity. We know it came from the Middle East to the West, and that Jesus wasn’t cool with Caesar. Teaching religion in America is so politicized, we’ve decided not to teach history at all.

Schools teach confusion and disconnected facts. When the reality is that family, race, and religion are all entangled. Understanding how they influence the world is essential for understanding our evolution as a culture, and ourselves as people.

The history of the Christianity is not as whitewashed as The American Textbook Council would have you believe. Christianity is not just a Western European tradition. For hundreds of years, it had a global reach from out of the Middle East into Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Christianity did not become uniquely European until,

  • The Arab invasion of Africa in the 600’s. Before then, the major cities of Rome were seated in Africa and speaking Latin.
  • The outlaw of Christianity by the Ming dynasty in China. Before then, the Nestorians had spread the religion in Asia among the Mongols from the 600’s to 1500’s.
  • The conversion of pagans, and overthrow of Muslims in Spain in the 1500’s.

Identity Entanglement: Ethnicities, Families, States, and Religions

Ethnicity

Ethnicity and religion are deeply connected. In the early days of Muslim jihad, Muslims had a hard time keeping the faith together. They fought two civil wars in the 600’s, and two more in the 700’s. At a time when the religion was fracturing their Arab identity was the primary foundation that kept the religion intact.

Muslims were slow to identify themselves as a distinct religion wholly separate from jews and Christians matters were seen on ethnic terms Muslims and Christians but of Arabs and Syrians.

Philip JenkinsThe Lost History of Christianity

Arabs became Muslims, and the Syrians became Muslim-light. The Syrians maintained cultural aspects of Christianity because they were Christians for hundreds of years before Muslim rule.

In the Shiite tradition, for instance, the Alawites made up just 11 percent of the population of Syria, but they hold disproportionate political power under the Asad family and the Baathist Party, which has been in office since 1970. They not only venerate the prophet Ali but see him as an incarnation of God - an idea that appalls orthodox Muslims. They have a special devotion for Jesus, they celebrate some Christian holidays, and Christian elements survive in their liturgy as of the people of light, seeking salvation in a world of darkness. In older sources, they are usually called Nusayris be descriptive: it means “little Christians.”

Philip JenkinsThe Lost History of Christianity

A sliver of Shittes religious history can shed a bit of light on the issue of why the Shiites are a continually persecuted minority in the region.

Family

All Abrahamic religions are familial descendants of Abraham. The shared history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam was one that united them against the pagans.

Under Muslim rule:

Christians were treated better than other groups, who did not qualify as approved and tolerated People of the Book. In theory, we might expect the Zoroastrian religion to have been persecuted from the beginning, as the Quran condemned fire worshipers as pagan. In fact, Muslims attitudes were initially more favorable, only gradually were harsher standards applied. Increasingly, Muslims destroyed the fire temples and built mosques on the sites; churches, in contrast, operated publicly.

Philip JenkinsThe Lost History of Christianity

While a shared history and descent can unify, it can also divide. As is the case with the fundamental split between Muslims between the Sunnis and the Shiites, and the Muslims and the Christians at large.

Underlying the struggle between the Christians and Muslims is the fact that theirs is, ultimately, a conflict within a family, and no feud is more bitter.

Philip JenkinsThe Lost History of Christianity

States

The political affiliation between Church and State is always risky for both parties. Which is why there is no such divide in the Islamic faith. State protection can help a religion survive, as it did when the Christian united across countries in Europe to protect themselves from Muslim invasions.

Or religions and states can turn on each other. Spliting on political lines, when one identity take precedence over another.

This is what happened with this Christians in Mesopotamia and China who came to be seen as tools for the Mongol conquerors. Japanese Christians were targets as potential allies of European imperialism; Latin Christians in the Levan, and the advance guard of the crusader movement.

Philip JenkinsThe Lost History of Christianity

How do Religions Die?

Religions die like all group identities. They die when extinguished, forgoten, or abandoned. Our group identities are only tools; tools that can unify us or divide us.

We all bleed together, but sing songs of suffering in different languages.

We know this true because it’s so impossibly difficult to say where one identity ends and another begins.

  • Judaism a religion, for the Jewish people, in the State of Israel.
  • Islam requires that prayers be said, in Arabic.
  • America is one country, under God.

Identities are like phenotypic traits and tend to come as pairs.

  • Blonde hair, blue eyes. American Christian.
  • Chinese Buddhist. Small noses, wide cheeks.
  • Sunni Muslim. Libyan Arab.

People have multiple, sometimes conflicting identities. Ultimately, people choose to identify with whatever group they believe is most “like them”. Whether that’s in appearance status or disposition.

We all have identities we inherit, and identities we co-create. Every individual needs group identities because we are social animals. As social animals, we need an identity to root us in tradition, and an identity to move us forward into action.

Religions and languages span multiple states. States encompass people of various religions and ethnicities. Despite the current totalitarian laws of a politically correct dominant culture, there is nothing wrong or inherently evil about identifying connections between race, religion, and culture.

Why do Religions Die?

Religions die for the same reason states fall, the same reason species go extinct.

Religions die because they are only human.