Here is Cazi’s piece from the night:
Every Story Is Made Up
Every story is made up. Have you read ‘The BFG’? Roald Dahl? Yeah, it was made up. It’s a good story though. Every story is made up. Did you ever hear the one about the Moon Landing? 1969, man on the moon and all that. Yeah, it was made up. I’m not saying it didn’t happen. But the story you know is just a story that was made up. Just words… about an event. And I bet Neil Armstrong has a different story to you. It’s a good story though.
We Have Only Words To Tell Our Stories
Every story is made up. Made up of words trying to pin down and describe actual things, actual events and happenings, actual feelings. But the words never quite get there, do they? They can’t. The word ‘happiness’ doesn’t describe the experience of someone who is happy. It’s a just a word we use to point us in the right way.
Or, it’s like the story about the Inuit people having an unusually large number of words for ‘snow’, and we have, y’know, ‘snow’. Paddy Irishman, Paddy Englishman, and Paddy Eskimo make it back to the pub after getting caught in a snowdrift. But two of them are struggling to put words to their very similar experiences: “There was so much…snow…everywhere!” No vocabulary to tell snow from snow.
That story’s made up too as it happens – the one about Eskimos and them having lots of words for snow, it’s not true – but it is a good story, and it highlights the limits of language (all language) and makes the point that words fail us. Try as they might to be precise, they will always (and can only) generalise. Words and their meanings fall like precipitation; scattered and inaccurate.
How many words for ‘snow’ would be needed to describe every snowfall?
We Can Only See The World Through Our Own Eyes
Every story is made up. And so much of how we understand the world is determined by how that world has shaped us. Our template crafted through millennia of evolution, then personal experiences, all through the limits of our senses, and the moulding of the ‘self’.
We can’t understand outside our means; we can only see the world through our own eyes. Every story is made up. We will always see the world, not as it is, but as we are.
New Experiences Demand A Rewrite
So our beliefs, and the stories of how we understand ourselves, other people, the world, and even the divine, are inevitably flawed. It’s nothing clever; it’s obvious. And we’ve all known how new experiences demand a rewrite.
We should expect our beliefs to evolve, and want them to, and allow them to. So why do we ritualise our beliefs? They will change with time, and they already separate you from others. We should ritualise being human – this is what we share.
Yet, how often do we cling to our stories in the face of unfamiliars and unknowns? When we don’t have the vocabulary to describe snow from snow? Suddenly our stories are engraved in stone (by tradition, by deep-set desires and fears, by subconscious self-serving agendas) and they will not be re-written. We demand that this new reality and these new experiences fall into line – fall into our lines, on our page, in our made up story. When the plot thickens, we want to sift out the complexities and make a Mr. Men book out of a mystery.
But we shouldn’t worry or get too precious. We should be gentle and just remember that our story is made up and we’re allowed to change it.
There Is A Story Of God
There’s a story of God. God is a story. I have a story of God that I made up, and so do you. Parts of it were given to me, and I accepted them. Unknown to me there were parts I needed to hold on to, and parts I needed to abandon. Chapters I secretly edited and later found evidence for. Maybe God is a Big Friendly Giant. Maybe God is Dead. There are as many stories of God as there are possible experiences from getting caught in a North American snowdrift, and they’re all made up of words that fail.
The question isn’t whether your story is true (that’s easy – it isn’t). The question is whether your story is true enough. But how do we judge that? Our stories are precious, but they’re not as precious as the people around you. So when your made up story is helping others write their own beautiful chapters, keep it up. When your made up story is harming others, re-write it. If how you understand the divine leads you to love and include others, keep writing. But if how you understand the divine causes harm to others, reject your understanding. Shred it. Write it again. It might feel important, but you made it up.