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Just Because There Isn’t A Story Doesn’t Mean That There Isn’t Anything…

Our default state is to be swallowed up by whatever drama it is that happens to be going on for us at the time. To be swallowed up by whatever drama it is going on for us is to be defined by that drama, and it is quite usual for all of us to be defined by our dramas, defined by whatever story it is that we happen to be telling ourselves about our situation. Plainly however, there has to be something more to us than just a drama because a drama is just an ‘emotional reaction’! We can’t just be ‘our emotional reactions to the world’! Clearly we must be more than just our story of ourselves because our story of ourselves is just a construct (which is to say, we made it up ourselves).




It’s not too hard to see that there is something repellent about the situation where we are being defined by whatever drama it is that we are caught up in. There is obviously no dignity whatsoever in this! I am no more than what is (apparently) either working out for me or not working out for me. If this were true then I wouldn’t have any more existence than the ‘prevailing conditions’ and this would mean that I don’t have really any existence at all. I would in this case have no more existence than a puppet and a puppet doesn’t have any existence at all (or, as we could also say, it has a ‘conditioned existence’). This is somewhat harder to see however because we all think (even if we don’t know that this is what we think) that it is perfectly okay for us to live in ‘the story of who we say we are’, ‘the story of what we say our lives are all about’!




We assume that it is okay to do this – without bothering to pay attention to what we are assuming – but it absolutely can’t be okay because what we’re talking about here is total redundancy. Whenever I myself design the reality that I am existing in then the result is always going to be pure redundancy – reality can’t be something that I choose because in this case it’s just an extension of me and reality (if it is to be such) has to be different to me, other than me!  When I ever I inhabit a world that is seamlessly made up of my own descriptions the end result is always by definition going to be redundancy. The end result is redundancy because the only stuff that’s allowed to be there is the stuff that I have said could be there and I haven’t therefore allowed reality itself (whatever that might be) a ‘say’ in the matter at all. I am imagining that it’s OK for me to run the show, ‘all by myself’…




The result of this then is that we are ‘swallowed up’ by whatever drama (or narrative) it is that we are involved in; we are ‘swallowed up’ precisely because there is no reality left in our situation. Our so-called ‘reality’ has neatly cancelled itself out – it’s been turned into the polarity of ‘subject versus object’, which is neatly self-cancelling situation of ‘me relating exclusively to my own projections’. And yet at the same time it has to be acknowledged that we actually want to be swallowed up by the drama, swallowed up by the narrative – if it wasn’t for the drama, if it wasn’t for the narrative, then we wouldn’t be able to ‘enjoy’ having this concrete self sense of self that we play so much stock in. There is no fate more appalling than the fate of being completely subsumed within the tautological illusion of our never-ending hollow dramas, and yet the ‘payoff’ for this is such that we will never willingly give it up.




To say that we ‘enjoy’ the payoff which is the concrete sense of self doesn’t really ring true of course – there is no genuine wholesome enjoyment going on here, only the closed cycle of ‘euphoria versus despair’. We can no more enjoy the sense of the concrete identity we can enjoy being stuck in the state of denial. When I am imprisoned in a stilted, bizarrely distorted system of belief I don’t actually enjoy this situation but it is nevertheless still very important for me that I be imprisoned in it! There is a reason for my attachment to my delusional system of beliefs and that is to keep myself from seeing the truth; I’m being driven by fear in other words and this does not at all mean that I’m actually going to enjoy having my beliefs because I won’t – there’s no joy in them, after all! There is no joy in a concrete set of beliefs – there is no joy and there is no anything else either! The very same thing is true for the concrete sense of self that is generated by all my unrelenting dramas – I don’t enjoy being myself, not in any genuine sense of the word, it’s just a ‘necessary evil’ that I put up with because it serves the function of allowing me to escape the utterly terrifying situation of ‘there not being a story to cling onto’.




This situation of ‘there not being a story to hang onto’ is a hard thing to appreciate. Just because there isn’t a story mean doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything, which is what we would automatically assume. ‘No story’ doesn’t mean ‘no reality’! Stories take place in reality, after all, not the other way around. Reality certainly can’t take place ‘in the story’! The story is something for us to focus on, something for us to be deterministically captured by; we could say that the story is a ‘simplified form of reality’ (or a ‘surrogate form’ of reality) but when we lose the surrogate that doesn’t means that we are losing the genuine article, therefore! Losing the menu isn’t the same as losing the meal…




So what is left when we take away ‘the story’ or take away ‘the drama’? The answer isn’t (as we have said) nothing – which is what we will always automatically assume. The answer to this question is on one way (a negative way, admittedly) very straightforward – we could say that the answer is ‘nothing that can be made sense of within the terms of reference assumed by the story that we are so very habituated to the following’. There is a ‘discontinuity’ going on here in other words and although this may not seem like a big deal, it absolutely is. A discontinuity is a very big deal indeed when we come from a world in which there are no discontinuities – it’s like the end of the world, it’s like stepping off a cliff edge into an abyss, the abyss of ‘no story’!




‘No story’ doesn’t mean nothing, but rather it means everything since we are always having to exclude information (or ‘narrow things down’) in order to create a story. When we are completely immersed in a story however then there really IS nothing (far as we are concerned, anyway). The self which has been defined by its own narrative (and there is no other sort of self!) is in the most extraordinary situation therefore – it finds itself in the situation of having to live in a world that is made up entirely of its own descriptions and where these descriptions bear no relationship whatsoever with any underlying reality. Our descriptions never do have any relation to the underlying reality because the underlying reality isn’t ‘a thing’! Reality isn’t ‘a thing’ (or ‘an object’) but the space within which things or objects can exist, and this means that there simply isn’t ‘a story’ for it, no matter how much we’d like for there to be…








Image: The Neverending Story







Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.
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