Narrative is the most familiar artform in our life, and also the one we are best at.
Narrative is so common that we always get used to its existence. Hence, we tend to forget that it is an art form of sophisticated skills and to ignore the strength and careful thoughts hidden behind the skills. When our life is one-time and linear, narrative connects different lives, time and space for us, telling us about the world we can participate in though never lived in. Humankind has been practicing the art of narrative since the beginning of our history, and every single person has been practicing it since he or she was born. Through this long-lasting process of practice, it evolves and advances. Narrative applies concentration, imagination, rhythm and empathy to reality. It is not a documentation of reality, but the medium of opinion, and an accurate and efficient manipulation of feelings and information. It goes beyond the reality we have experienced. From the bedtime story to social fabrics, narrative build an enormous and complex world, which is the achievement of intelligent well-made of this world.
Because we long for efficacy and accuracy, we put ourselves in such a world: romantic comedies teach us what can be called true love; the economics of anxiety teaches us how to be the perfect parents; Father and Chicken Soup for the Soul tell us how to confront ourselves. We keep learning about how to satisfy our different identities but stop having the time to feel love and being loved, being hurt and joy, pride and shame, just because they are too complicated to be placed directly in a pre-existing narrative.
The identities and tags, which can be placed in a narrative, can be easily and quickly calculated, but it does not work for feelings and experiences. They therefore lose the battle against narrative. Even if you can jump out of one narrative, you still need to get to apply a different system to gain the power to fight and to express yourself in this real world. When narrative sets the identity and discipline, the uniqueness and authenticity from individual experience are sacrificed. They are replaced by vague adjectives. This narrated reality that we live in as well as contribute to, has become the structural violence upon us.
We can find countless examples in which the violence of narrative kicks in: the battle of the sexes, the reviving nationalism and materialization of consumerism…What we are usually told to do here is to try to break the structure that brought violence, to feel and experience with one’s heart, to return to individuals, and perhaps the Internet times will provide us with non-narrative perspectives. Of course, this is the right answer, but also a way-too-easy one. Can we really resist the temptation from the efficiency and power? Are we really willing to give up the sense of safety and practical benefit of being disciplined? Even if we are determined enough, when we break the narrative, are we ready to confront the agony of being abandoned of those who are left behind in the narrative?