Narratives are powerful than the reality

Adesh Kumar Mishra
4 min readNov 27, 2021

We live in the world of narratives. Some are created by us and some are by society. Generally, we think that it is we who are making the decisions, but the reality is otherwise. Our thinking and life choices are decided by the environment in which we live. We like to make narratives and want to live in the world of narratives.

The word narrative is derived from the Latin verb narrare (to tell), which is derived from the adjective gnarus (knowing or skilled).

A narrative is an account of a series of related events or experiences whether nonfictional or fictional. Narratives can be presented through a sequence of written or spoken words, still or moving images, or any combination of these. We, humans, love stories; stories shape the way we think and look at the world. Probably that is why our parents or grandparents used to read stories during bedtime. I remember some of them even today.

There are two ways through which we make the reality of the world. First is logical and scientific procedures, like oxygen is necessary for human survival, earth attracts each object towards its center, These theories can be weeded out by the theory of falsification given by Karl Popper. Falsification theory states that for a theory to be considered scientific it must be able to be tested and conceivably proven false. For example, the hypothesis that “all swans are white”, can be falsified by observing a black swan.

Another is narrative construction; these are the version of reality whose acceptability is governed by convention and narrative necessity rather than by empirical verification and logical requirements. The narrative operates as an instrument of the mind in the construction of reality.

The narrative is not static or terminal in normative aspects. It changes itself with the preoccupation of the age and the circumstances surrounding its production. That is why we see which looked cool or sensible in the past; it is obsolete in the present. What narrative is prevalent today might not survive after ten or twenty years.

Now, the question arises of who sets the narratives. The answer involves multiple actors like market, religion, society, individual biases, Let us see some of the examples -

A. In India, we celebrate Raksha Bandhan that is a festival of brothers and sisters. Sisters tie rakhi on brother’s wrist, and brother gives assurance to protect her from any problem.
It used to be simple 30–40 years before, now market made us believe that it is all about gifts and money. Now, if you don’t gift your sister, probably she would become angry. Your love is now inferior to a box of chocolate or an expensive dress.

B. Religion affects our ability to think and perceive the reality of the world around us. People are sensitive to their religion or faith. They act to conform to the instructions given in their religious text. Faith supersedes logic and rationality because its narrative is most strong than any other actor. I am wilfully not quoting the examples as it can hurt the sentiment of others; I have given you a general idea.

C. Politician shapes your mind according to their needs. They know what narrative is to set at what time. Don’t you think how easily your decision-making power can be affected by political class with the help of print media, social media, and other platforms?
In India, Identity politics is nothing but the narrative set by the political class. This narrative helps them to avoid tough questions like development-related works.

There is no logic or rationality behind these narratives. They all work on the faith and charisma of the leader. Some may think that science is purely rational and logical, but some political theorists believe science is nothing but sort of a super narrative.

Narratives help us develop an idea of our history, civilization, culture, and many more things. The problem arises when they become that powerful that they make our logical and rational thinking slaves to themselves. Our life becomes so meaningless that we spend our whole life following narratives that have no rationality or truth. In India, sometimes narratives become so powerful that people give their lives; if they fail to comply with the narrative.

Now, you might ask, what is the solution? I would say; the solution is simple but hard to get. Let me summarise it for you; first of all, always see who is getting benefit by setting out the narrative. If it is someone else then that narrative might not be beneficial for you every time. Secondly, narratives are for you; you do not exist for narratives. Thirdly, If anything costs you peace, it is too costly; take decisions logically, not emotionally. In the last, narratives are here, and they will remain here. But you are here for some time only.

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