Finding Coherence

We know that our lives are shaped by stories; the ones told to us by others, the ones we tell others, and in the end most of all by the stories we tell ourselves. Stories have power, and rarely I suspect more than now, and we would do well to consider our relationship with the storytellers.

When I consider the stories being directed at me by all types of media, from the respectability of the BBC to the attention seeking headlines of the mainstream press and onwards to the outright hysteria of social media and targeted mail campaigns (for some reason, I am being bombarded by mails from the American Right) what I notice is a dissonance and polarisation, perhaps best displayed today as lobbyists in the USA argue over whether 5G interferes with aircraft safety, and a decision that is being made today as to what takes precedence – safety, or commercial roll out of 5G. I’d rather not be part of the live experiment that finds out which it is.

However, what I am being told, at high volume, is not what I am experiencing. There is nothing of the Pollyanna in this, just more that the lived experience of everyday life is not what I am told it is by others with agenda. In turn, that doesn’t deny the challenges. As I write this, our lived experience, what we choose to see, defines our world.

Locally, as a family we are having to help create food banks at nursery schools in areas that the official data do not classify as deprived, because the current foodbanks don’t have enough. And this is before the impact of energy prices, inflation and other pressures that will turn the “just about coping” into the “not coping at all” without support.

Data of course is historic, whilst lived experience is real. The thing is, we will deal with it as best we can whilst those who obsess on the data express surprise and go off to learn lessons (again.) The froth of who lied to who, how often, and why, and effort expended in finding available scapegoats seems vaguely pathetic alongside the issue of children’s breakfasts, and the threadbare remnants of political probity.

Not that having leaders in politics and business who routinely lie and dissemble is unimportant. As they undermine their own credibility, lose the respect of those who they claim to represent and along with it any claim to credibility, they are creating the conditions for what happens next. The question becomes, what do those of us who live outside the “Through the Cracked Looking Glass” world of corporate boardrooms and national politics actually do?

There is a strange paradox in our current leaders. The leaders to whom we are paying attention are those who are struggling with the consequences of their own actions, whilst the ones who might have steered us clear of them less noisily get no mention, and have mostly left the stage. The current government remind me of classic crisis managers – those who glory in battling against adversity and who, in it’s absence, create it. When we react to the noise created by these people, we are complicit. We may want to think about that.

I think the answer lies in looking for coherence, wherever we can find it.

coherence (n.)1580s,

“suitable connection or dependence, consistency” (in narrative or argument), also more literally “act or state of sticking or cleaving of one thing to another,”

etymology online

There is coherence all around us, it’s just that it’s not where we are told to look for it. It is in pop up groups on Zoom, at School entrances, in volunteers at food banks and vaccination centres. In many places out of the spotlight, and anything to do with appointed “leaders.” It keeps company with other “co’s” – collaboration, commitment, consideration, cooperation, co-dependency and other derivatives of “com” as a living prefix meaning “together, mutually, in common.” 

I think the change we need will come about through small coherent groups, sharing experience, assembling round common purpose and sharing the many, small, generous acts that give meaning to action. It will happen, hopefully, at the ballot box as we appoint those who understand our lived realities, and as we reduce the current stratospheric distance between those who make the rules, and those expected to follow them.

Which brings me back to storytellers. Those we listen to determine our mood, feelings, mindsets, and behaviours. They are powerful, and we need to choose them as carefully as we choose those around us, in our real worlds, who we really depend on.

Paying too much attention to self serving noisemakers does not serve us. We can either respond to dissonance, or seek coherence,


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