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11:43 AM - Mon 12.05.16
The Narrative

The Narrative

Where do I start...?

There's nothing really going on right now, so I don't have a "lead story" to share (But more on "stories" in a bit).

I've just been...thinking.

And sadly, that doesn't typically lead anywhere good (Which is an ongoing conundrum - I often feel my emotional problems are the result of "dysfunctional thinking", yet I want the same brain that creates that thinking to come up with a solution to it).

Just finished watching the final episode of the first season of Westworld.

I enjoyed it, and the first season in general. I don't think it's going to be in my pantheon of "favorite shows ever" - Smart as I am, I tend to get easily lost when it comes to elaborate plotting. It doesn't seem to be "the way my brain works", and often leaves me somewhat cold, fearful of investing in a story that will ultimately disappoint me by being "less than the sum of its parts". But all that said, I was very invested in some of the characters, and intrigued by the issues raised about "consciousness", what it means to be "alive", etc. And as a guy who's always felt like an "other", and somehow "not completely human", a story in large part about the trials and tribulations of sentient artificial life has a certain "resonance" to me.)

A big theme of the show involves "story" (Or "narratives", as they are referred to on the show), raising questions about the "narratives" that are our lives - Are we in control of our "stories", or is it "God"? Do we have "free will", or is it an illusion? Can we choose, or can we only do what our "programming" tells us to do?

And in our "stories", is it the suffering, the pain we wish to avoid, that actually makes us "human", the pain of feeling/realizing that "The world is not as we wish it to be"?

In addition to the "resonance" of relating to characters who are "not human", who are struggling with/struggling towards sentience, the whole "life as narrative" theme has a great deal of meaning for me.

I've always thought of my life as a story, have always wanted my life to be a story, but not just any story, a very particular kind of story - a "Horatio Alger", rags-to-riches, from-tragedy-to-triumph story.

Years ago, I don't remember where, I read that children who have rough childhoods often imagine grandiose futures for themselves.

I've written about that before, because that's certainly what I did, with my fantasies of fame and fortune as an Actor/Movie Star.

And I think for a long time, my understanding of that fantasy was that it existed to tell myself, "I am unhappy now, but someday, when I am a rich & famous movie star, everything will be perfect and I'll be happy. No one loves me now, but someday, everyone will love me".

I will be happy when I get this thing.

I will be happy when I get to this place.

I will be happy at some point in the future.

And that makes sense to me, that I constructed that "story" to console myself, to keep myself going - "It won't always be like this. Someday I'll be happy. Someday I'll be loved." - but I think there's another element to the story, which is that it made things make some kind of sense.

The story I told myself - "Someday I'll be a big movie-star and be rich and everyone will love me" - wasn't just to tell myself that "brighter days are ahead", it was to also tell myself I was "special", that there was a reason for what was happening to me.

I was a voracious reader as a kid, and I don't know if my reading helped me craft that last idea, or that I read things that supported the idea I'd already crafted, or a little of both.

But I read biographies about any and everyone - WC Fields, Babe Ruth, Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, and Florence Nightingale, for some examples - which almost always had an element of humble beginnings and/or tragedy.

And of course, there were comic books (Particularly superhero comics) with - once again - heroes created from humble and/or tragic beginnings (And with the big three - Superman, Batman, and Spiderman - the huge resonance, for this kinda-sorta "orphan", of them all experiencing, and basically being created by, the loss of parents/parental figures).

When I think about it, it's basically an answer I gave myself to the question "Why me?" - the negative answer was "Because you're 'bad', and deserve everything that happens to you"", and the positive one was "Because you're 'special', the put-upon hero of the story, where you suffer, but everything works out in the end".

I feel like I've spent a lot of my adult life focused on the former - and it's certainly been addressed quite a bit in therapy (My misplaced anger as the wellspring of my emotional difficulties) - and not nearly as much on the latter.

And I'm coming to the (very late, in my mind) realization that even the "positive story" I told myself wasn't so positive, in terms of the effect it had on my life.

Because, in a nutshell, I thought of myself as a "character" in my story, when all this time, I should have been thinking of myself as the "author".

That realization is particularly interesting to me as someone who doesn't believe in God - As a child I did (Or I certainly wanted to), but from my teen years on, if I didn't believe in God, and I was seeing myself in terms of being "in a story" but not "writing the story", who did I think was composing this epic?

The grief and emotional struggle I'm experiencing now is the realization that I've spent my life wanting it to be a "story", because then it would "make sense", only to realize there is no story, and there never was.

I wanted my life to be a story, particularly as a child, because I wanted it to make sense, to mean something.

I wanted a story because I didn't want to have been hurt for nothing.

But my early life didn't mean anything. It was just, to get right down to it, "shit that happened". It was just unfortunate circumstances, and I was just unlucky.

My life is not the story of an inherently bad person who deserved to have bad things happen.

My life is also not the story of someone destined for greatness.

I don't know, at this stage of the game, if life has any particular meaning, or if it's "just a bunch of shit that happens", but after wanting the former for most of my life, I currently lean strongly toward the latter.

But if you're hungry for life to "mean something", you have to impose meaning upon it, or at least try to. You have to do things, not just assume you will somehow be delivered from your trials and tribulations because "That's the way the story is supposed to go".

You have to be the "Author", and not just "The Main Character".

(And suddenly this entry feels trite and a little simple-minded...but "The meaning of my life" - and whether there is one or not - isn't something I'm going to knock out in a single journal entry, so I can live with "trite and simple-minded" for now.)


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