aloneAlone, a single bit in a computer means nothing. It lacks context. It could be ‘1’ or ‘0’, there’s nothing in between unless we shave time so small we wouldn’t notice it with all but the most sensitive of instruments that we may not have built yet.
What gives this little piece of information context?

A grain of sand by itself, suspended in space, means nothing. It lacks context other than being a bit of silica. It is simply because it isn’t, and it is surrounded by “isn’ts”.
What gives that bit of sand context?

The answer to both questions, of course, is that we give these things context.
We’ve been wandering around the planet we stand on for millenia tossing out contexts on things we encounter like blessings from a deity, limited by what we understand. As our understanding increases, the contexts we give things change.

Contexts about the planet are pretty basic, revolving around whether the earth is shaking or not, whether it’s rainy or snowy, as examples. How we feel about that context sometimes creates narrative.

The sun being visible means daylight – and when the sun was supposed to be visible and wasn’t, it was clearly the work of some deity either to water the crops or to make it cold, perhaps wet, and nasty. Context becomes narrative in that way, and then narrative begins to give context.

“If we just sacrifice that good looking daughter of that guy I don’t like who got with that woman who didn’t give me the time of day… she’s a virgin, right?”

Then narrative gets used as context to provide narrative to provide false context.
And thus we have fake news.

The key is to define the appropriate context.

Untitled Introspection.

It seems a lifetime ago when, having gained radio privileges in boot camp, a young Seaman Recruit stood looking down aisles of perfectly lined up aisles of bunks when Pink Floyd’s, “Welcome to the Machine” started playing on the radio. It was one of those moments when everything came into focus, where the mirror and the self have no boundaries. There are moments like this throughout our lives, but there’s a reason I picked this one.

While I’ve not been publishing everything online, puzzling over the various narratives that have impacted me and whether they were worth keeping or discarding. In discarding things, I found myself floating, trapped sometimes not by narratives but by a lack of narrative to guide me through wherever I was transitioning to, if even I was transitioning at all. Trapped

When you start peeling away the narratives, you start peeling away the destinations those narratives provided. In the simplest form, narratives get us from point A to point B. It’s more complex with interactions of many things, but at their core, that’s what narratives do – they give us a way to get somewhere, even if that somewhere isn’t really where we want to go, or the end result is to be someone who we don’t want to be.

We’re born into them, we build other narratives on top of them, and even what we can imagine later on because we’ve been guided by narratives. This is not a bad thing – but it can be. When there is a sense of being trapped, there’s something that’s wrong. For me, I don’t know that there wasn’t anything wrong. I found that to push beyond the boundaries, I needed to find where they were and why they were there in the first place. It takes time, honesty with one’s self, and lots of time because we’re almost never honest with ourselves.

Frank ZappaBut when things do go wrong, we do need to look at that. When we factor in other people who have other narratives, as has happened with globalization combined with the social media explosion, tempers flare, cracks begin to show, and we pretty much have the world as it is today – an unapologetic mess of battles of narratives, flaring here, simmering there, and ice elsewhere.

Now, if you’ve never heard of Frank Zappa, he has a great quote where he talks about decorating a piece of time, in the context of a guitar solo – but it’s something we all do with our lives. There are the beaten paths of life that society presses upon us, and then there are the parts of life where we find ourselves making paths. Some people stick to the beaten path more than others. Speaking for myself, the beaten paths rarely fit – if ever.

Decorate as we wishIf there’s a book on it, it’s either a beaten path or may become one. It lacks originality, that shiny luster, after a while – either it succeeds or fails as a narrative based on the number of people who subscribe to the narrative. Tolkien made Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves cool, and all that followed – as original as some of it may have seemed – was from a beaten path. What Tolkien did was borrow from other things to make something original, compelling, and even a message of hope in camaraderie. And this is one of the reasons, aside from the personal, that I started unraveling my narratives.

Somewhere along the way I sort of got lost, which I expect is par for the course. A lot has happened in my life, and I expect yours, and if you have the luxury of time to unravel everything it can be uncomfortable since these narratives have been the things pressing you in this direction and that to take you to where you think you’re supposed to go.
This seemed all very new to me – maybe it was the lack of humanities in my formal education when I was younger. In secondary school, the options were ‘sciences’ or ‘modern studies’, and the science path chose me more than I chose it, and the English Literature fell by the wayside. The nuances of humanity, which we all need to know better, are best described in our art – not our science.

Did I ‘find myself’? Nope, I think that ‘finding yourself’ stuff is bullshit. But I got to see more past myself as I figured out what was behind myself – and I found a point where I needed help, so I started seeing a psychologist and it has helped me find things I didn’t see before. The right questions can help us see things anew, the right observations can give us insight and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enlisting a professional to help with that.
With a bit more confidence in knowing my own biases and understanding why I trod my paths.

And merging with the rest of the world in moments.

Interlude Coddiwomple

48388230_1869156783210491_5540500364366708736_nI have been writing, I swear it. It hasn’t been cohesive, notes all over, messy, post-it markers in books, at one point I even had notes on the bathroom mirror because of an idea I had in the shower, but… well, water marker is not good on fogging surfaces.

When I wrote, ‘Narratives‘, I was already going a bit down the path but hadn’t really done with the idea. Deconstructing narratives in anything you’ve lived your life in is hard – deciding which ones should be deconstructed… and the older you get, the more you have to work on. Fortunately, if you’ve been paying attention, you know what to work with.

I gave into it, letting my mind wander, imagining different worlds in my mind, re-imagining this world, then exploring fictional worlds.

Amazon’s masterful “Rings of Power” has been fun doing it with, because what started off as a children’s story (The Hobbit) grew into a world with languages, scripts, different peoples, different cultures… all from a children’s story… and while we who know Tolkien’s works better than average may find some things not particularly what we agree with, it’s good fiction that is definitely a good story that helps explain the world of Middle Earth. The characters, wow.

Do I have a theory about the Stranger? Sure. It makes no sense telling you because I like the ability to be surprised, and it isn’t something I’m invested in. If you pay attention to what he does, he looks like a young Radagast. Could be one of the blues, but you know what? I would, if I had a book, read to the next page to find out – and good writing is more about that than being accurate because the story isn’t read if it doesn’t have that. Writing stories no one would read is senseless. Go find a government job writing permits somewhere.

Worlds are rewritten all the time even if we think it looks wrong. Oh, and as far as colors of cast – well done, well done.

I do believe that Tolkien also once wrote through one of his characters – perhaps Gandalf – that every good story deserves embellishment. Embellish away, writers of Rings of Power, I’m not so emotionally attached to the canon that I will take umbrage at some revisionism.

Will I like what they do? I have so far, and I feel attachment to key characters. That’s also good writing, and I suppose in video, good acting, special effects, etc, etc. I don’t know that process and won’t pretend to.

Now, compare that to House of Dragons. People are comparing them here and there and they are apples and oranges. To me, Game of Thrones and it’s House of Dragons is more of a soap opera in a fictional universe, where Rings of Power and Tolkien’s works are an epic that started off as a children’s story.

Two different types of taste. I don’t intend derision when I describe House of Dragons that way, some people like that sort of thing and enough people do that George R. Martin has sold more books than me by a few bazillion. He’s good at what he does, the show is good at what it does. The story just isn’t as appealing to me, and I imagine there are those in another camp who don’t like Rings of Power for similar reasons. To each their own.

This is all why deconstructing narratives is so interesting and I daresay important. If we can do that with the fictional universe, what about the narratives we live within?

Doesn’t it seem like we need a bit of embellishment these days? Well, not ‘talking heads’, but ‘characters to inspire and who do important stuff against really crappy odds’. Who is today’s ‘Rocky’? No, not the sequels, the original where you can tell Stallone put everything into it with the tenacity of his character.

So this was a bit of a coddiwomple through things, and also to remind myself to publish more often while I’m off lost in other worlds and building at least one new one.


Human Decency MediaWe are born into a world of narratives, each one of us, and depending on accidents of geography, we are fed different narratives. We are born into whatever government we have, we are molded into what is expected of us, and we are even told who we must like or hate. These are things societies do, passed down from generation to generation, as a method of keeping things cohesive to an extent. That cohesiveness comes at the cost of adhesiveness between groups.

These narratives always start off with good intentions, and are carried on with the best of intentions, be it whether the intentions are for others or ourselves, or likely some mix in between. What does it matter to anyone that someone they never met has committed suicide? We believe we should care. We are told we should care. Society demands us to care. We care, in an odd sort of way, but we know nothing of the person and rather than get to know who they were, we find reasons for what they did not as much for them – it’s much too late for them – but because we worry that someone we do know will.

When a mass shooter kills a bunch of kids, we necessarily understand that the children are the future. We empathize with the parents, but unless we see that it could happen to children we know, we don’t worry about them. We might shrug it off. Just as when a missile kills a lot of civilians on another part of the planet, who was raised on different narratives we think are inferior because they are not our own, we can shrug off easily that and go about complaining about the line in the coffee shop.

It’s only when we see ourselves in other people that we pay attention. When we see people like us or near enough to who we see ourselves as – not necessarily who we are – we can empathize, because we recognize them not as human, but as someone like us.

Being ‘human’, unfortunately, is demonstrably not enough as we cast our gaze across the planet in a moment, even this one, and should we dare peer back through that gaze, we will see the pattern dancing in time. All because of the misfortune of the incompatibility of systems of thought that were designed implicitly to form an identity, and where there is identity, there is an isolationism to secure that identity even if that identity is to not be isolationist.

Tomorrow, children all over the world will be born who will likely will never meet, born into systems of conflict that they had no say in. Systems that may oppress others within the system, a very human trait, such that others may benefit – which is where some begin preaching another narrative of communism, or socialism, and where junior college students intellectually masturbate – those systems end up the same way, but without some form of recourse. Some of us were told democracy was best, but no two democracies are done the same, and what constitutes ‘freedom’ is largely dictated by a government detached from the people who allegedly get it… if they work hard, we tell them, things will get better, a lie told since the agricultural revolution – perhaps even before. It keeps society together so that some can scrape the cream off the boiling milk of humanity. Every system does this, it’s a matter of how.

It’s a matter of what humans do. We’ll deny it and claim that it’s not that way, and sit our children in front of flat screens filled with narratives that preach how fair the world is when it most certainly is not, even letting some of them think that the world owes them some strange birthright to impose their will on others as they please with no recourse.

We are such odd creatures, creating worlds of fictions for generations that confine the generations to those fictions. We have knee jerk reactions when other fictions are brought forward. A different religion? Not believing in religion or supreme beings? Off with their heads!

They disagree with us? Cancel them. They say something we disagree with? “Clearly, not one of my people!”.

And with all of that it is easy to dissemble harsh realities of circumstance that are outside of our own narratives because, we tell ourselves quietly, if they were only like us, it would not have happened to them.

How unfortunate about flooding in that part of the world, but no, climate change is not real, let me hop in my SUV to have coffee with a friend. How terrible that those people over there are getting killed, if only they had the good sense to be like us, it would not have happened! Oh my, a global pandemic! We’ll isolate our society and see who does best, locking down borders not because we don’t want to spread from our magic lines on the map, but because we fear the spread within our magic lines, our borders of our society, marked by people who have long since died.

But every now and then, something creeps in on us in an increasingly flattened world through communication. Every now and then we feel a sense of connectedness across a distance that would have taken a lifetime to travel not so long ago, because there are commonalities in our narratives, our fictions. There are things we can agree on. There are things we see in others as mirrors of ourselves, little lights across the world that blink even for a moment, making us begin to question the narratives we were born into.

This is happening across the world right now, increasingly, but we usually only see the disagreement and even the violence because the majority of us stick together, blinded by our surroundings to what lays beyond, that which we were told is not good.

Societies, as we call them, are often big enough where they have different societies in them with different experiences. The kid from South Boston may have more in common with the kid in Zimbabwe than either will with the people not 50 miles away, within their own societies. The children of the wealth gravitate to each other for the same reason, because they see themselves in each other. Maybe the trouble is not culture or religion or the artificial construct of race – all of them are artificial, really, but race is a fiction built on fictions and built into fictions, enough so where people still talk about it because people still act on it.

Meanwhile, at the individual level, everything we see and do and learn impacts who we are, and we see similarities in other people across the spectrum. Society might say they can’t be friends, or even fall in love, but that bond can defy the bonds of society, the social contracts our baby feet were inked and pressed upon without our assent.

Knowing this all – because we can’t un-know it – why do we ask children what they want to be when they grow up as a ‘career day’ rather than ask how they think they can improve the world? Because the world, in most of our minds, is only as big as the society we live in, and that society needs doctors, lawyers, and ditch-diggers and dish-washers.

Left to our own devices, we might just jump in puddles all day, some seem to think. What a crazy thought. Our societies need people to serve them coffee without incident, present a smile that must look real at theme parks, serve umbrellas with drinks and otherwise pamper us because where would we be without that? We might have a human experience, and those are uncomfortable because that’s not our narrative, some think. To have a conversation beyond, “I’d like a caramel iced latte!” might lead us to break down a part of the system that works for others.

Trapped in the straitjackets of society, we slam into each other on the internet, unable to do anything but bump, bite and kick…

Until we take the straitjackets off and begin interacting differently.

Image at top made with

The Food Court.

The Mall Food CourtThey all walk past, in their own worlds. A smile here, a furrowed brow there. The expectations plane sometimes as they check their phones, the elders check watches. They are chasing things, people, spending their time in minutes and money. A caricature of social matrices made mundane by aggregation.

Christmas decorations are up – almost all but the nativity scenes actually have nothing to do with Christianity. These are traditions writ large on a canvas of culture with a caption, “spend”. Giving is good, so that stuff you spent your year collecting you can give us – and we’ll give you things, and you can give them to someone else. It’s the way of it, anyone who disagrees is labeled ‘Scrooge’ and mocked.

Malls used to be vibrant places in better times – now it’s more of a who’s who. The convenience of everything being in one place comes at the cost of the rent of the shops, passed down to customers who happily spend… when they have money. Times are different now, but it was around 2 p.m. on a Monday, and I had an eye appointment. So I can see all of this more clearly. As if I would want to see this all more clearly.

Christmas shopping has begun. I walked through the toy stores, considering my nephews.

The young women and men in the store immediately start asking me if I need help, as if I might teeter and fall around all their wonderment. Hardly. It’s the tired recipe of the better mouse trap – cars, action figures and dolls (and some in between), things that you can shoot at other people – legally. What a life skill to have, to fall back on in hard times. As a young man, as a boy, I was always interested in the things I could do things with – create my own world in my fashion, by block, by log, by metal contraption. I was lucky to understand that about myself at a young age. My nephews, I am not sure of. I think about it.

I get, of all things, a Subway sandwich. There is no good Italian sub in Trinidad and Tobago, not like in a good deli in Manhattan. Roast beef could have been interesting but they have no horseradish, and there’s no point to roast beef for me without horseradish.

I am disconnected. I know this, I knew this, I have known this for as long as I can remember. The days when it was uncomfortable are hard to remember now, but they were there – the discomfiture, the awkwardness, the silly attempts to pretend to fit in. To be ‘normal’. Normal disturbs me. It’s as unimaginative as water rolling downhill.

The mundane narrative is, strangely, not what people want – as can be seen by media consumption. And all it takes is a moment to do something, to think something, to observe something outside of the tunnel vision society creates.


protect delusionYou were born in a place on a planet. Where this happened defines your nationality, for better or worse.

This does not mean you should not travel to other parts of the world outside of the resorts and tourist destinations to meet people around the world.

You were born into a culture which shaped how you think. A religion was passed down to you; before you could speak you were surrounded by that culture and religion.

This does not mean it’s the right culture for you, or it’s the right religion for you. This is not even a factory default setting in a human. You are free to choose others, or free to choose none.

You were born into a socioeconomic situation. This will either give you opportunities that those without will call privilege, or will keep you from opportunities through your lack of privilege. There are myths and legends of hard work making you a financial success – and then there’s the story of Sisyphus.

It’s better not to be Sisyphus.

Oh, and you were born a particular shade of humanity – but that too doesn’t define you.

These are some common delusions we propagate from generation to generation.

It’s time to stop. Think. Choose.

The Narrative War

Nodal NetworkWe have our fictions – we think of these interpretations of our world as facts – and then we have our narratives. And our narratives are another level of fictions; derived fictions based on how we connect what we ‘know’.

Narratives are presented to us every day in media. Alternative narratives show up as conspiracy theories when they aren’t presented by the media, when people start questioning things. There was a time when people believed that the Earth was flat because we didn’t know enough about our universe, and there is a time now where people don’t know enough to know that and believe that the world is flat. It’s all very derivative. Some people think that vaccinations cause autism. Some people don’t.

These are narratives, woven together from what we believe we know as individuals. A person who doesn’t understand that we are limited in how we perceive the world, in our perceptions, is limited to that which is tangible to them even when others recognize these limitations. That’s the crux of most problems we have as a society. It’s a matter of how we string the information we have together; it’s a matter of what information we have. It’s a matter of what we question and what we accept.

Have you ever seen an atom? The odds are good that you haven’t. I choose to believe that atoms exist because it fits my narrative; it fits what I know about the world we live in, right down to those pesky electrons flowing all over. It fits what I’ve seen. It fits what I understand.

This is not the narrative of everyone else, though. Some are happy with their narratives.

Some are not. They sit happily building their narratives with what they believe they know, defending it against any new information.

And then some are always looking for more information because they want to improve their narratives. They’re open to new information. They seek it out.

This ideological war has been happening throughout recorded history. Battles are won, they are lost.

Slowly, improved narratives win. History shows that.