Life’s Narrative Theory

I’ve been meaning to talk about, for my own sake more than anything, the attachments that we have to our past. Even the grimy parts, we find a comfort in the knowing and the tried and tested methods of our own character. It’s human nature, surely, to hold on to the familiar and reject the uncertain path even if it might be sunnier on the alien horizon. It’s a part of the falling forward philosophy and acceptance of the forward motion of existence to continue into the unknown. It’s almost against our philosophical and rational nature to turn back yet we do it anyway. There’s this hardwired device that instructs us to return to a familiar equilibrium rather than face the new one.

Yet, it’s not possible. Life exists within the principles of Todorov’s Narrative Theory:

Stage 1: Equilibrium.

Stage 2: Disruption.

Stage 3: Recognition of Disruption.

Stage 4: Attempt to repair Disruption.

Stage 5: New Equilibrium – link back to Stage 1.

It exists in all of our fictions and non-fictions and has become a core reality of our human experience. Hell, perhaps the experience of Universe entire. It extends far beyond the academic theorizing of a Media Studies lecture hall and into the very chemistry of existence. This is what we know.

So why do we fight with our feelings to so desperately go backwards within ourselves and our conditions?

The “good old days” don’t exist and they never did.

Today I called an ex partner of mine, who is also a close friend. I did so feeling lonely, feeling starved of contact and touch. I felt the pull to the past, the pull to a time capsule of our perfect moments. They didn’t answer and I took it as a sign. It was a sign from Universe that I needed to check my own motivations, reflect on my purpose for calling. When they did call back, I was honest about this conversation with myself and it was all very amusing. Yet, when we finally said goodbye, it felt that it established a New Equilibrium and the pull at the old one felt less important, less probable.

I remember a time when I was never alone with myself. I lived off the Hank Moody philosophy that: “A morning of awkwardness is better than an evening of loneliness“. I romanticise this time: a time lacking self-awareness, a time lacking reflection, a time without thought just action. It was almost supernatural and a whirlwind of fleeting emotions and meaningless sex. A time when I could do anything and be anything and a time when my vices never caught up with me. Now, in the New Equilibrium, I can’t act without reflecting. Before I commit an act, I wonder first if this benefits the people around me, if this is a virtuous act. It’s progress no? A betterment of my own character yet still I yearn for the quick and easy.

Perhaps that will always be the allure of calling up an ex: the quick and easy way to feel wanted, to feel complete again and to feel appreciated. There’s no shame in it, but what does that do in the end? For us, for them, for the grander effect of Providence in the world around us? The path forward is harder yet more natural than the path backwards. It’s cyclical and it flows like blood in the cardiovascular system. The Universe pushes us in one and services our organs accordingly as we need not as we like.

It’s a painful reality to know that things for us, will not be the same as they were before. From accepting the loss of a former relationship to a distancing of a friend to a loss of a limb. But we endure, as our nature requires us. We push forward into the horizon together in the same motion. When we breach the horizon, there is a new day and at the end, a new dusk, a new night, a new dawn. Life spins in the circular motion like the Earth on its axis, like the Sol System around the galactic core, like the Milky Way entire.

Todorov’s Narrative Theory isn’t just some mental exercise, it’s existence on paper.

“First, do not be upset: all things follow the nature of the Whole, and in a little while you will be no one and nowhere, as it is true now even of Hadrian and Augustus. Next, concentrate on the matter at hand and see it for what it is. Remind yourself of your duty to be a good man and rehearse what man’s nature demands: then do it straight and unswerving, or say what you best think right. Always, though, in kindness, integrity, and sincerity.” – Meditations 8.5

Or perhaps I’m thinking too deeply and it’s easier just to say: forward, dear sibling, always forward.



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