Michael Jackson – pop icon. Michael Jackson – child molester.
Two stories snapshotting the same guy. Each story has evidence to back it up. One is true to a certainty. He was a pop icon. The other story’s backed by strong suspicions, which is enough to make it true to the people who believe it.
Stories are all around us. This weekend, we have houseguests. Their stories are visiting.
A selected sampling (in no way comprising the entire picture):
The wife expressed concerns about government-run health care with a story whose message was: “If it costs less money to chop your leg off than fix it, they’ll chop your leg off.” That’s a powerful story. If the woman believes that story – or has strong suspicions in that direction – it will be difficult winning her over to government-run health care. There’s that chopped-off leg story to overcome.
The husband is a Personal Injury attorney. He knows about the Power of the Story. His job is to tell the jury a story that will persuade them that his client has been wrongfully damaged. His opponents will tell the jury a different story, a story that will persuade them their client is not responsible for that damage. The outcome of the case will be determined by which story the jury finds more persuasive.
The truth of the situation? It’s not really an issue. All that matters is what the jury believes is true. And what fuels the belief that causes them to be swayed by one story more than by the other one? I’d give a big vote to personal experience.
“The government never sent me my tax refund.”
How’s that person going to feel about government-run health care? The folks who never sent him his tax refund responsible for administering questions of life and death? No, thank you. Maybe the unsent tax refund only happened once, but to the person it happened to, that’s all the evidence they need.
“The hospital gave my cousin the wrong medicine and he died.”
Someone’s suing a hospital for negligence. That guy’s on the jury. Is there any question which way they’re going to vote?”
The memory of past experiences gives us evidence for our current beliefs. But we don’t remember everything. We assume that’s because our brain isn’t big enough. But maybe that’s not the reason. It seems like there’s a selection process going on. But what is it?
What makes us remember what we remember, and forget what we forget?
I’m jumping ahead to something I think I know. Once our belief about an issue becomes set, whether it’s about some thing – Kate Hudson movies – or someone – our spouse – or some group of people – “Them” – or some institution – “the guh’mint” – we then tend to retain in our memory only those examples that support that belief.
As the supporting examples mount up, our belief grows progressively more unswerving. Before you know it, it becomes an “always”, as in “The news media always distorts the facts” or “‘Jerk-face’ always leaves in underpants on the floor.” For that particular believer, it truly is an “always”, owing to their having filtered out all memories of when the media was on the money and the underpants were in the hamper.
But that’s down the line. That’s after the belief has already been established. What I don’t know is the reason for the original step. How does your belief become your belief in the first place? It’s not inevitable. Consider this:
You’re a little kid. It’s the first time this happens to you:
You fall down, your parents let it pass, you get back up. What do you remember from that experience – your own resilience, or your parents’ “neglect”? And – the important question – what led you to make one selection over the other? The question is important because whichever “lesson learned” you absorb will color your experiences for the rest of your life.
My hunch is the explanation lies in the genetic sphere. But I really don’t know.
What do I know? I know some unclear-to-me process determines what we choose to remember, and what we remember justifies our beliefs. Those beliefs then go on to motivate our actions, and reveal themselves though our stories.
I think about these things. It’s my world. I tell stories every day.
I wonder why I remember some stories and not others. I wonder about my story selection process And I wonder why I tell the stories the way I tell them.
This is important to me. I’m exposing these stories to the public. What exactly are they saying about me?
What do your stories say about you?
The "scheduling" function on my blog doesn't seem to work anymore, so I can't write stuff one day, and schedule to publish it another day. I now have to publish manually. To give you something fresh to read in the morning, I will have to publish the night before. I don't know why any of this should be of interest to you. I just thought I'd pass it alone.