This is a blog post about my fantasy world. Before you click away into the nether lands of cyberspace, let me tell you why this might be important to you.
We all live in a fantasy world.
From the most brilliant scientists to the most fundamentalist religionists, our fantasies define who we are.
In this second decade of the third millennium, we like to pretend that we’re “data driven” – that we are smart and savvy – supported by the latest info-overload purporting to tell us who we are and where we come from.
It doesn’t matter whose data you use or where it came from. Data are neutral. Data have no meaning apart from the meaning we give them. In science, we tell stories about the data based on our hypotheses and theories. Some of those are some pretty darn smart sounding stories. So smart sounding that we often confuse them for the “TRUTH,” so help you God.
In other areas of our corner of the vast Universe, people tell very different stories about their world. They look at different data, or they choose to tell a different story about the same data. Or both. This results in sometimes very different stories about who we are and how we came to be.
You grew up telling yourself a story, and so did I. Everyone does. That story defines everything about how we show up in the world.
There’s no problem with having a story. It’s how we make meaning out of the vast reams of data that we are exposed to in every moment. The problem occurs later on, after the story gets fixed – cemented like Krazy Glue – into our psyche. Not to be rooted out or changed, we cling to our story as if it were the TRUTH, never again allowing any information to come to us that doesn’t fit with that story.
Then it often goes South. Many of these stories we glue into our minds impose upon us self-inflicted misery, disconnection, judgement of others, lack of self love, and worse. Despite those problems they cause, we cling to the stories as if they were some kind of “unchangeable TRUTH.” We cling to our stories, and we cling to our misery, lack of self love, judgement, and disconnection.
I got sick of that and decided to change my story.
It wasn’t a conscious decision. It would have been a much faster transformation if I had recognized my story for what it was, and intentionally rooted it out. Alas, I was not that lucky. (I was going to write “smart” there, but smart people are just as prone to telling themselves stories as the not-as-smart. Telling stories is an equal opportunity habit).
So, my story began with growing up in a scientific household. My father was a famous chemist and my brother is a well known physicist. In our household, there was the truth as laid out by “science”, and there was all that “bogus crap that other people believe.”
Little did I know that there were people all over the world looking at us scientists, and lumping our stories into the category of “bogus stuff that other people believe.” I suppose that it dawned on me at some point in mid-childhood that ours wasn’t the only story out there. But it didn’t matter, because our story was RIGHT and theirs were obviously WRONG.
I was so wrapped up being RIGHT that I paid no attention to whether my story was bringing me any joy, love, fun, or peace. According to my story, emotional stuff like that was just a bunch of side effects of biochemistry that weren’t all that important.
What was important was SCIENCE. What was important was Figuring It All Out (TM). What was important was being smarter than those ignoramuses who hadn’t yet Figured It All Out.
My Ego was bloated with facts and figures to PROVE my case, a bit like one of those dead cows I’ve seen floating in the Colorado River. Yeah, it was that gross.
And what did I figure out with my high-minded story?
It’s a Random Universe and We Are Meaningless Players
In that so-called scientific story I’d adopted, the universe started out for some unknown reason, and since then, everything that happened has been a product of randomness.
My story about our random universe was based on ideas about what happened a very very long time ago. That was long before any humans were around to measure things with our fancy instruments. There were no weather vanes on Saturn to tell which way the wind was blowing… So to call it “scientific” is assuming that we know far more than we actually do about what was going on back then.
Anyway… in that story, you and I and everyone else came from something a bit like green pond scum. Chance pond scum turned into chance human beings. By chance we were the fittest in a brutal, harsh, dog-eat-dog world. We out gunned and outsmarted the other species to ascend to the top.
And the prize? A sort of clinging, tenuous survival on this planet, where at any moment we could be wiped out by war, meteorite, or other disaster… and then the cockroaches will ascend to replace us.
Worse, because we wiped out so many other species (and later, races) on our clinging way to the top… guilt for our sins is mandatory. We are just selfish, brutish beings… not much more than a blight on the planet. It would all soon come to an end, a just dessert. When I was 13, I dreamed that my dog Bear and I were going to go live in a cabin in Alaska to wait it all out. Bear was the perfect companion for my plan, a stout St. Bernard – German Shepherd mix who could probably outlive me in that kind of scenario. He just needed a keg on his neck to carry our food and drink for the apocalypse.
My daughter recently came to me and said: “I think it would be nice if we could just have a big reset and start it all over with far fewer humans.” WOW. Now she’s carrying around a similar story, even though I didn’t consciously pass it on to her. That particular story of humans-as-blight is a prevalent one, especially in liberal/progressive circles**.
(** I’m only picking on this story because it’s the one I’d adopted. There are plenty of other just-as-dysfunctional stories that people tell themselves, like the one that says we were all perfect until some rib-cum-woman came along, got hypnotized by a snake to bite into an apple, and that perfection was permanently ruined by this heinous act. Implicit in this particular story is the sin and temptation inherent in humans – especially women).
That story led down a dark path for me. The more I reinforced it as I pursued my professor job as a bigwig scientist, the more it translated into dysfunction in my relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. “Things could collapse at any time” – I lived in constant fear due to this story. I perused the economic and environmental websites daily to reconfirm just how bad things were becoming. That focus on collapse became a personal reality for me. In 2010 UNC pulled the rug out from under a big project without notice, and that led to my angry resignation. According to my story – as just one more sign of how bad things were, they’d screwed me over for space for years, and things were just getting worse and worse.
That story led to a lot of personal turmoil. It led to turmoil with my family. It led to bouts of depression. It was unfun and unhealthy, and I’m still recovering from it all.
And it gets worse…
My story also said I am unlovable. My story said that since I grew up with a peculiar birth defect, “I’m not going to be accepted.” It came from a childhood where my mom walked out the door…never to return. Whenever I saw something I didn’t like, I projected onto it a sense that “it is personal, against me…” instead of realizing that most people are just living each in their own world. My mom didn’t leave because of me, she left because of her own issues. Yet my story for all those years had been telling me that I somehow caused that.
This story didn’t allow me to believe in LOVE. I mean, I believed in the concept of a biochemically-derived love, but it was just a function of neurotransmitters, and nothing more than that. Loving myself wasn’t on my radar, because it seems pretty odd to love oneself when love is just a bunch of chemicals in the first place. And….I was suicidal at times. It was bad.
Why share so much? I do it to illustrate just how a story can paint you into a corner, like that story did for me.
Then something happened and I got a new story
Over the past six years, I adopted a completely new story. I took the same “facts” that I did before, and I chose to interpret them in a whole new way. I chose to tell a new story, one that has led to a profound change in my life.
For a long time, I was afraid to share this with anyone. My new story very different than the previous “scientific” story I carried around. I felt like I would be laughed at for sharing it.
But it is Just A Story
Then one day it dawned on me. This is just a story. No more, no less. It is not a matter of who is right or who is wrong. That is a totally unimportant ego distraction that I had been caught up in (as are many, many other people). I’d been so caught up in the Ego of my story, perhaps because I was a non-Mormon who grew up in Mormon Utah. I felt like I needed to defend my particular view against the very strong views of the nearly all-pervasive church influence around me.
Yet it’s not just me. Nearly all of us adopt these stories, and then we go out into the world with a sort of missionary zeal for defending our story. We ttry to constantly prove to others that it is right, and we make judgements of those who’ve chosen a different story.
All the while, we separate ourselves from what’s really important: finding and holding the best story that works for our joy, our peace, our prosperity, our love.
So, I’m going to tell you my new story – a fantasy I created
I make no claim about its “rightness.” I make no judgements about the very different stories that others hold. It may offend both some of the hardcore materialist scientists and many of the religious. That doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you use my story transformation as an example, an illustration of how you can examine your story. You can figure out whether YOUR story is serving you, or whether it’s holding you back from a deeper sense of joy, love, and fun in your life.
Since I spent my whole life around a scientific worldview, my new story is based on the best I can make of the evidence (not just the mainstream). You may not need as much evidence or data or “logic” for your story, and that’s ok. Those are things I need to justify my story due to my curious upbringing.
It goes like this:
In the beginning there was consciousness. It was aware of itself, and of possibility, but there was no medium in which to express itself. It was like a painter without a canvas. It was frustrated and forlorn, until it figured out a way to create a canvas out of itself.
The canvas (our universe) is part of that awareness, and yet the universe, its canvas, has its own independent existence and progression. It is free to evolve by its own course – and yet all the while is supported through LOVE by that which created it.
Within that canvas is a vast universe of universes, and there are also a vast series of “intelligences” – only a small fraction of which inhabit physical bodies like ours.
Our own being came through a process that resembles the Evolution written about by Darwin, but with one difference*. It is not entirely random. Rather, it is driven by a creative process, expressing itself on the tableau of DNA as its canvas. It is driven by a process that has LOVE for its creations – all of its creations – at its core.
It is not an old white guy with a beard planning out the “perfect scenario.” Far from it. No, it is an awareness that constantly grows and expands, and is joyous at each new development. It paints on the canvas through each evolutionary development. It paints on the canvas through each human idea. It paints on the canvas with each new star system that explodes into being. Sometimes those new developments don’t work, and can’t be sustained. Sometimes they work too well, and take over – squeezing out others.
*note: remember, this is my own fantasy. If you want to get into a debate about evolution vs whatever (creationism, intelligent design, etc), I won’t join you. That is not the point here. It’s finding a story that makes us happy.
With each new advancement, it opens up even more new opportunities for further developments. There is no “good” vs “evil” in all of this. The artist loves all of its creation. Evil is only a human creation, a product of people who’ve become disconnected from the love, the creativity, and the joy.
The artist loves all
The artist who created the canvas loves all of its creations, even though many of them have become so disconnected from it that they think they evolved randomly from pond slime. Even though they think that the artist doesn’t exist. Even though these creations have forgotten that they are love, and that they should start by loving themselves.
A conscious being who does not love itself cannot give deep love to another. One cannot giveth of that whicheth one doth not have.
We came here to explore and to create. We came here to build upon others’ creations. We came here as artists, much like the original artist, to see what great things we can do with the canvas of our life. It’s the canvas we’ve been given, yet many of us devalue it, minimize it, and feel unworthy of it.
Sadly, like me with my former story, many of us have forgotten. We’ve become lost in a story that says we have to work really really hard to succeed, and if we don’t, we are not worthy and we’ll be left behind in the dust. We’ve become lost in a story that says we are insignificant, unexceptional, and unimportant in this vast (and cold) universe. Many of us get lost in a story that says we are here only to serve others, rather than to live our life to its creative fullest – while serving others through living our lives to their fullest.
We have the free will to build upon creation with joy and love, or to unplug from it and destroy small parts of it with our hate and our fear. Though a lot of humans have chosen the course of hate and fear, our world is a resilient place. It will take a lot of hate to truly destroy it. Meanwhile, there are more and more of us who are waking up and embracing our true purpose here. We are gaining momentum to displace the hate and the fear. We are likely to triumph, as long as we embrace a better story.
I like my new fantasy much better.
It has begun healing my psyche and my relationships, without psychotherapy or pharmaceuticals. It has led me out of depressive episodes, and out of withdrawal from other human beings. I’m not 100% of the way there yet. The painting is by no means complete. We are never done. But I’m making great progress, because of the new story I’ve chosen to tell myself.
So now it’s your turn. What story are you telling yourself? Is that story helping you be a happier, more connected human being? Or does it have you lost in despair, dysfunction, overwhelm?
If it’s not serving you, perhaps it’s time to start rewriting that old story into something new. If you need help with that, reach out.