Don’t Let Them Tell Your Story

At a few times in my life, I have found that other people have taken it upon themselves to write things about me. Now, it should be clear to anyone who knows me at all that I have always been quick to take up the pen in writing about myself, whether in personal essays about how I experience and interpret the goings on of my life, my travels, what I read, see, eat, and so on, or in novels or plays that serve as thought experiments of Nathanish people in particular places and times and situations, or in poetic writing that serves as an implicit examination of feelings and sensations and so on. What I have found interesting in reading the accounts of others about me, especially when viewed in contrast to my own writing about the same subject, is how differently one can be seen by others relative to how one sees oneself. What I have not found to be the case, though, is any sort of accuracy in those accounts as to my motives and reasons for behavior. It is useful, if somewhat painful, to know how it is that others see us, and it is certainly useful to see how it is that others see and justify themselves. Yet if someone is sufficiently unusual, other people will generally lack the insight and wisdom to be able to correctly fathom the depths of those people, and I have certainly found that to be the case for myself.

One aspect of contemporary journalism that we find often is that contemporary journalists often lack a great deal of skill in writing about anything, but that they have unfailing confidence in their own capacity for drawing conclusions from what they read, see, and hear. This unfortunate combination of massive incompetence and unflagging confidence has led to a great deal of the problems our contemporary society has in understanding our condition as well as relating to other people. Many of us have become the other to people around us without those people possessing the insight to recognize who we really are and how we came to be that way, or caring even to be fair and just to us in their characterizations of us, which resemble hit pieces more than any serious attempt at understanding. We cannot trust other people to be fair to us when they write about us and talk about us. That is not to say that if we do explain ourselves fully that other people will like what we have to say about ourselves or will think or feel any better about us, because they may have very serious reasons not to appreciate what they would know about us if they could, but rather that we have very limited to nonexistent abilities to understand that which we hate and hold in contempt.

If we cannot trust other people to tell our story, how then are we to tell our own story? This is a complicated matter. One of the reasons that people are tempted to outsource the telling of one’s stories is that it is a complicated matter to convey oneself to other people. We want to be seen in a certain way by other people and this means that we may only want to convey some aspects of ourselves, and that only in certain ways. We may not always be skilled at communicating certain aspects of ourselves. Also, we may be (unintentionally) communicating a great more or a great differently than we do, and this may hinder our ability to convey that which we want to others. We cannot simply assume that other people will like us if they understand us–they may like us a great deal less if they do because we may have wider and more fundamental differences than was originally thought to be the case, but however well or poorly we are in making ourselves understood, or even desiring that other people understand us, we simplly cannot trust what other people have to say about us, especially if they approach us with a distinct lack of friendliness. Neither victim tales nor villain tales are often very credible, and in a world where we tell victim tales about ourselves and villain tales about others, we make it hard for others to understand us, and hard for us to understand ourselves. And we cannot teach when we do not understand, try as we might.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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