In this episode, I’m joined by Visa to talk about how to find meaning, what religion has to do with meaning, how to figure out what you want, and a whole lot more. You can find Visa at https://twitter.com/visakanv
William Jarvis 0:05
Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways that is worse than the past towards a better, more definite vision of the future. I’m your host, will Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives podcast.com. Well, VESA, how are you doing today?
I’m good. I’m good to pleasant evening.
William Jarvis 0:48
Excellent. Oh, thank you so much for taking the time to come on. I really appreciate it. Could you give us a brief bio in some of the big things you’re interested in?
Bio and things that I’m interested in? Well, it’s okay. My name is visa. I’m in Singapore, I’m 31 years old. What am I interested in a lot of things. I I think right now I’m passionate about figuring out how to get a lot of people involved in participating in community spaces, and you know, shared narrative building and just trying to organize groups of people to do interesting things together. I think that’s my dominant curiosity. And then there’s all kinds of things that kind of intersect with that, like, how do you be? You know, how do you find people? How do you communicate with them? How do you find common ground? How do you get good at all of the things that’s involved in that process?
William Jarvis 1:45
Very cool. Very cool. What are the what are the key elements there for community building that you’ve found so far? And how important are kind of great founders or like some key person that brings it all together?
Right, so yeah, it’s tricky stuff. Because I don’t want to, you know, I do think that when people say, there’s like a great man fallacy in that, you know, we do kind of over estimate the role that some individual plays in any great endeavor. There’s that, but there’s also, you know, I don’t I think when you examine any group context, or any, just any movement, any organization, I think there are limitations to what people can do in aggregate without like a human shaped persona, kind of functioning as a representative, so to speak. So I think people do need do seem to me, like someone to take responsibility, even if it’s just transitory, right? Like, even if it’s just, you know, you need, it does seem like, when there are people who step up, and sort of like the face of things that makes it easier for other people to coordinate, it seems challenging to have people coordinate around abstractions like like, it seems to be like a human limitation so far. Which isn’t to say that it’s not possible. But I think when you you know, you kind of investigate anything that’s happening. They’re usually some people who are kind of, like holding the torch. And
William Jarvis 3:24
so there’s some kind of shelling point, you got to get to have somebody that seems like
it. Yeah. Very, very
William Jarvis 3:29
cool. Ingredients wise, what have you found, is really important to community? To me, it seems like they have to have kind of, you know, maybe there’s some secret that’s different from the outside world? Or like, there’s something is there’s some main ingredient that that’s really important. Is this, there have to be something compelling there.
Yeah, so there is usually the story of some kind, I mean, depends on how you gonna frame it, but like, there has to be some reason some pool or maybe some push, but you know, it’s, it’s not something that, well, I can kind of be in two minds about this, it does happen quite naturally, I think I think people do, people are social creatures. And so they do tend to, you know, in any exchange, people will will, in the interactions with with each other, they will find some kind of common ground in some some way, shape or form. But, you know, there’s also like a certain entropy of sorts that you have to push against where you know that so it’s like, it’s kind of like an order versus chaos sort of thing. And if you want to have something going, and the interesting thing is I’m finding that there seem to be similarities across every scale. So even if you don’t talk about other people, right, we just talk about one person trying to do one thing, like you’re trying to be a writer, you’re trying to write a novel. For example. You need to manage that project. And you know, so So project management is another one of my curiosities and it feels like it’s all connected, right? So how do you manage a project, what is a project and I would define a project as something that requires collaboration between a project is anything that an individual cannot accomplish by themselves in a single sitting, right. So if you can do it in a single sitting in a task, you’ve got your accomplish a task, that’s great. But if you want to do a project, even if it just by yourself, you have to collaborate with like your past and future selves, like you have to work on. So if the write some pages today, to write some more pages tomorrow, you do that every day for a few months, then you have to edit it, and like all of that, and to be able to collaborate with your future selves in that way, you have to have some kind of coherent idea, some kind of narrative, some some reason for why you’re doing it. And this also applies to projects that are larger than one person. So if you want to do work on something together with somebody else, then you have to, and you may never explicitly articulate these things, but like even, you know, even a marriage, right, even a family that there’s some kind of implicit story in why we are together rather than not. And you will invariably encounter kind of contradictions, you’ll encounter conflict forces, external forces that kind of nudge you not as it’s not necessarily malicious, because it’s by random chaotic noise, random distractions and stuff. So the question is, how do you not get distracted? How do you not get pulled away from the thing that you’re trying to do? And that requires investment? It requires reorientation focus. Yeah.
William Jarvis 6:34
A lot of greatest go into it. I like that. Are you married? By chance?
Yeah. Nine years in December. Awesome.
William Jarvis 6:42
Awesome. Well, I’m curious, do you think? Is there something about the commitment mechanism that changes the way interactions work within the relationship?
Oh, yeah, you know, so like, my wife and I, we were already dating for many years before that. And so it felt like we were pretty much married already. But you know, like, the day after you get married, or maybe a few days later, you realize that, you know, so getting divorced is something that is kind of costly, like, like, psychologically, socially, like, you have to explain to your friends, right, it’s just, it’s more complicated and messy. And so that makes walking away from the relationship more costly. And what will be tempting to do like what I tell them a newlywed friends, like, the first time you have a fight as a couple, as a married couple, it will occur to you that you don’t actually have to put in a ton of effort to reconcile because you can, in your mind, you’ll be like, Ah, they’re stuck with me anyway, you know what they, right? And then that’s very dangerous. It’s like, it’s like, it may seem plausible in the short run, but in the long run, it’s not going to work out. So you have to, you have to really put in the effort despite that being easier, in a sense, right. And you do see that I think, in a lot of, and not just marriages, right, like in a lot of partnerships, or even like old friendships and stuff, where people feel like the cost of walking away is very high. And as a result, they might not be happy where they are, but they don’t really want to go through the discomfort of renegotiating the relationship. And so they kind of just grumpy and miserable in place, which is like the is upset. Status Quo outcome for a lot of people in a lot of contexts. Yeah, it’s pretty.
William Jarvis 8:31
Yeah, that’s a bit that’s a bad state to be in it. And it seems like, it’s very difficult to get out of because the cost is so high in the short term, like, Yeah,
I think I think that’s the case. But it’s, you know, people who are stuck in jobs that they don’t like, but like, the cost of leaving the job and finding another job, and all that seems overwhelming. And so that, so what they end up doing is they kind of, it’s like, complaining about it, it’s like the exhaust valve for for not really dealing with it. And you know, there’s, there’s like this old joke about how there’s a support group for everyone who hates their jobs, and it’s called the bar and we meet every day at six 7pm or something. And yeah, it’s funny, but it’s also sad, and it’s like, life is short, we shouldn’t be living in in contexts that we are not happy in.
William Jarvis 9:13
Right, right. Well, what do you what does one do, right? You know, if you’re, if you’re stuck in that, like this, this bottom here, and the, I guess the energy required to get over the hump to say, to leave a job, that’s a great, great example. You know, do you just have to be kind of a rational and just kind of push through that, you know, how do you think about that?
That’s a great question. I would say actually, so I’m not pro grand risks. So I don’t believe in like, Oh, if you don’t like I don’t believe like, if you don’t like your job, just fucking quit man. Like, I don’t think, yeah, it’s, it’s not responsible. It’s not right. Like your odds of success are not great, right? It’s almost like you have to feel that it’s a project you have to start a project of, okay, I’m going to have to figure out where I am. I’m going to figure out where I want to be. I’m going to it’s an And I’m writing a book right now called introspect, and it’s like a more general version of all of this. And one of the chapters is called execute the jailbreak, which is, you know, so like, for a lot of people at some point in their lives, they feel trapped in their ever circumstances they’re in. And it’s like, you know, okay, you’re in some kind of psychic prison. Sure. And, um, you know, that’s like social and social elements to it, and whatever. And, you know, if you want to break out of jail, you have to plot the jailbreak. Right? Like, if you’ve watched, like Prison Break, or one of those movies, or like a heist movie or whatever, like, yeah, it’s like, it’s like doing a heist, you have to, you have to like the know, the know, the layout, you know, you have to be like, okay, when this happens, I’m gonna do that. I’m gonna, you know, like, kind of, so maybe if you want to leave your job, you have to start planning for what, what am I going to do? Like, am I going to have a few months? And do I have savings for a few months, too. So in the meantime, while you’re kind of plotting your escape, you do have to tolerate wherever you’re going, yeah. But it becomes easier to tolerate. When you know why you’re tolerating it, you know that you have a plan, and you’re going to follow through with it, and so on.
William Jarvis 10:59
That makes sense. That make sense. It’s like having a plan and working toward it. And gathering my sources. And just being kind of just have a plan seems like having a plan is pretty important. It can
be kind of exciting, even although I think some people, what they do is they have the illusion of a plan, or they they come up with a vague sense of a plan. And they hold on to that as like an escapist fantasy, but they never go there. So that’s, that’s also kind of tricky. And for some people, maybe that’s an equilibrium that they are okay with, although I feel like we should, again, we shouldn’t be, we should try to be honest with ourselves and figure out what we really want to be doing.
William Jarvis 11:34
Absolutely. I want to talk about that, figuring out what we should really be doing. There’s this great line in Hamlet, where Polonius says Be true to oneself. And we’re supposed to be skeptical of this, because Polonius is a fool. So what in the play at least? And, you know, so how does one you know how? Yeah, how does one go about thinking about these things? You know, it seems just like really difficult.
Yeah, I mean, well even fool sometimes see the correct thing? And yeah, and I so I, so again, this is the topic of this is a very central topic to the book that I’m working on. And I’ve actually spent a really long time on it, because I wasn’t satisfied with my original set of answers, which was very kind of just think about what you like, and then just ask a bunch of questions. And then like, there was a very cerebral kind of, yeah, try to put your put your feelings through. So when I say feelings, I’m already kind of I’m already spoiling it. But I don’t think it’s something that can be solved at like a cerebral level, I think that desires and what people want, I think it’s very nice. It’s very emotional. And I’ve done a bunch of reading the kind of corroborate this. And there’s a whole bunch of interesting anecdotes from like, his, like historical anecdotes from hundreds of years ago. So for a couple of examples. So Martin Luther, right there, the Reformation guy, when he went to the monastery that he that he went to, he was saying something like, I have, he was just feeling really shitty about himself and about life and everything. And he said to this mentor, something like, I have made Christ, the jailer of my soul. And you know, I’m just so I’m such a sinner, I’m such a bad person. And like, you know, I just feel, you know, horrible. And his mentors and his mental Yohann said, You should, that’s not how you should live like you shouldn’t be flagellating yourself over what is bad, rather, you should focus on on the grace of Christ. So in in the case is a religious context is the grace, focus on the grace of Christ. And that way, you will have a change of heart. And that phrasing really stuck with me change of heart, and I started looking around more for these phrases. Another example, J. S. Mill, John Stuart Mill, yeah, he was raised by his dad to be like, a, like a hyper intellectual sort of kid. And like, it’s like, it’s, it’s kind of creepy and sad, in some ways. Yeah. His dad was a fan of Bentham who’s, yeah, we got to come up with a panopticon. And so GS Mills dad was like, I’m going to raise you separate from other kids very isolated, very kind of, like training to be a child genius, and very much kind of indoctrinated, or kind of, I mean, I don’t know how you gonna frame it, but like, it was very primed to be very utilitarian, which is like very focused on like, what is the greatest good and stuff like that? And GS mill, he was journaling his autobiography or something. And like, I think in chapter five or something, he says something like, I just feel so despondent. And he, he was writing to himself, and he said, If I asked myself in my heart of hearts, if I could instantly have what I want, which is like a very utilitarian universe, right? Like if I could remake the world, instantly to be trying to optimize for utility, would it make my heart happy? And he said, My heart says no, and then he has like a like a depression and or whatever. And then he he eventually comes out of it, because by reading poetry so he said that he was reading the poetry of Wordsworth, William Wordsworth and a couple of others. And he said that there’s something about the beauty of what they explored that really spoke to his heart. And like, yeah, once you start looking out for this, you see this over and over again, there’s this phrasing of what does the heart want? Or like, you know, my heart cannot?
Read? I do think that yeah, there is there is some kind, I don’t know if the language is correct, like, in a technical sense, like maybe it’s just a different part of the brain, I don’t know. Like, I’m not fixated on you know, it’s necessarily embodied, although if you want to, if anybody wants to go into like, nerdy shit about this, you look up like solar plexus stuff. That’s the thing about like, emotions being in and the psoas muscle, like when, when people are kind of traumatized and stuff as well, muscular tension in that space. And it makes it very difficult to to be expressive, like physically. And it’s like a mind body connection, something going on. But I mean, I’m not an expert on these matters. I came at this trying to understand, you know, why I get little guys in my DMs guys and girls, both I get people in my DMs kind of saying, oh, you know, I’m I kind of miserable, and I don’t have to do and, and I used to think that, oh, you know, you’ve got to guide them towards figuring out what they want to do. Right. But what I’m now coming around to thinking is that people have, you know, and the amazing things again, you start seeing this in so many stories, even in fairy tales, and just, you know, Disney movies and stuff, the hero’s the hero’s journey, right? It’s insane if you follow the hero’s journey, which is like symbolic of like an emotional journey, right? It starts out in your, in your village, it’s a happy place, you know, the childhood home idea, like the family unit, Everything’s beautiful. And then this, there’s some event or some something happened, that kind of shatters that illusion, that bubble of joy and pleasure. It’s like something like maybe there’s like dragons attacking the village, or maybe it’s, you know, like something some corruption in the village, and you have to go away from it to go and, and fix it, right, like mana, frozen, they all have the same. And there’s this idea that there’s always the sense of, like, you know, so the child is directed from the heart, they just do whatever they like, they just do whatever they love, whatever was fun. And then there’s something bad that happened, something consequential, you know, I think, in NS case, in, you know, in Alsace case, in frozen, it’s like, she has these powers that she doesn’t know how to control. And so she’s like, Oh, no, my powers, like damaging to the people around me. And so there’s this whole conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know right now, blah, blah. And that is now how I’m choosing to interpret it interpret, interpret that is that it’s like the tyranny of the authoritarian mind, over the body over the feelings over the heart, right. And then the journey that the hero has to go on is you have to learn how to use your powers, you have to learn how to feel your feelings, and you have to learn how to manage it in a way that is, is non damaging, right. And so it’s like, there’s this there’s a synthesis of like heart and mind. And there’s usually some, like, major conflict that they have to go through. And they realize that oh, the way that I’m trying to protect myself is actually, you know, like, you’re trying to build a fortress to protect your heart, but it becomes like a prison, and then you’re miserable. And so you have to, you have to kind of break free from that prison and, you know, in a strategic way, so it’s like a, and then you finally you get to get the elixir of life, and you get to go back to the village. And so this is very nice, poetic story that I think, really maps on to people’s personal lives and experiences where you know, it’s like, you might be your first heartbreak in a relationship, or it might be, you know, some like you, you were really earnest and happy to hang out with your friends. And then you said something, and it offended someone else. And then they kind of like, ostracized from the group, like there’s all kinds of people have all kinds of dynamics like that. And the challenge of life, it seems to me is that you have to, you know, you can’t just live from your heart completely in an ignorant fashion because they end up causing yourself and other people hurt. But you have to be careful not to kind of overcorrect on that front. And I think everyone overcorrect a little bit at some point in their life, trying to avoid pain. And then that becomes a new source of pain. And then confronting that authoritarian tyrant self is itself painful. And it’s like it can be you know, some people have like a dark night of the soul, kind of like emotional collapse kind of thing. But then when you rebuild after that, then you have this very integrated, wholesome thing. And I feel like you know, again, so like, I went on a bit of a tangent there. But this personal journey, I think, also reflects outwards into people’s interactions with other people. So like, how you relate to other people and what you talk about and what you focus on. It’s all kind of connected, if it makes sense.
William Jarvis 19:46
Gotcha. No, that that makes a I really liked that explanation. It makes me think a little bit I really like this this this thought of like, you know, following your heart and like you’re feeling it and and I, I do I do I don’t know how to articulate this well, but I really understand that it makes a lot of sense. One of the questions I have is, is, you know, and this is pretty difficult, but you know, where do we get our desires from? And can they be valuable or bad at times? And perhaps that’s something where your mind and your heart have to kind of interact? And you’ve got to kind of do this system one system two thinking thing and evaluate that.
Wait, can you say that against the US? Where does that come from? And can it be bad?
William Jarvis 20:30
It can it can your desires sometimes be like, I have you ever read Gerard by any chance? Yes, mimetic, yes, it’s a medic theory. So he has this idea that, you know, we a lot of times we get our desires from other people, we copy other people, and that can lead us to conflict with them. So we copy our model. So sometimes, you know, we could have desires that are good that are like, from truly inside us. And there’s also desires that we get, because, you know, maybe visa, I love your Twitter, I want to be just like Visa, and that leads us into like mimetic conflict or something like
that. That’s, yeah, that’s, that’s tricky. Um, so in my again, I’m not an expert on this, I’m still kind of figuring it out as I go. But my reading and study, what the things that I get is, it seems to me that there are some desires that are really innate all the way through, right. But it’s difficult to know what they are until you go through like this, this gauntlet, of kind of crashing against the desires that you inherit, right. So I want to, so I mean, like, like very young children, they want to impress their parents, and then you get older, you’re an adolescent, you want to impress your friends. And that’s normal, it’s normal to care about other people, especially since we, we are social beings. And you know, even the language we use, we didn’t we didn’t invent the language that we’re using right now. We inherited it from other people, and we remix it, and we try and find our own voice. Miles Davis has this quote about how, man it takes a long time to sound like yourself. And I think that’s true. It’s really you know, you, for for a lot of us, we are almost always speaking, other people’s thoughts, other people’s desires, and so on. And yeah, so I think there’s this process of, I mean, for the people who want to seek it, there’s a process of like introspection, and and that you have to go through to discern what your more innate desires are, there’s a bunch of things you can do about that, you know, you can you can, you can talk to your friends, you can talk to people that you’ve known, who’ve known you for a long time, that’s like you can, it’s like a hole. And it’s like, I don’t think it’s a completable project. I think it’s like a thing that you do your whole life, right? You’re just, it’s like a proprioception, right. It’s like figuring out where you are around other things. Yeah. And regarding whether it can be bad, I think, I think the fundamental, simplest kind of layer of desire is very, it’s almost amoral, it’s almost, it’s neither good nor bad, it just is. But whether it becomes good or bad depends on how you wield it, how you express it, and you know, different people have different advice depending on what kind of context they’ve been in. So there are some people who are way too disciplined and way too tightly wound that they need to kind of loosen up my let go and just try more things because they’re so narrowly constrained, whereas some people are, like, such free spirits that they, you know, they aren’t thoughtful enough about what other people are going through, and the things that they do kind of have consequences for other people. So this is a very socially mediated kind of thing. You know, there’s a line in the courage to be disliked by a couple of Japanese authors, I can never remember the names, but but it’s based on like, Adlerian psychology. And the idea there, one of the strong ideas there is that all problems are interpersonal problems, meaning you can which can seem kind of extreme, but there’s, it’s like a lens through which to, to make sense of idea of things that are wrong. So like, if you think that you know, I’m poor, it’s because you’re, you’re relating it to people who are not poor. If you think I’m short, I’m skinny, I’m ugly, and whatever it is that you think is, is a problem is always like, if you were the only person on the planet, it wouldn’t even occur to you to think in that rent. And you can actually investigate that there. There have been people who have experienced lengthy periods of solitude. So like, there’s this some guy who was like sailing out at sea for like, Yeah, almost like months and months, there was some guy who was like a hermit living in the forest for years at a time. And what what they all report is that when they don’t have anyone else to interact with that concept of self almost withers away, or it almost just kind of fades into the background, which is that they no longer think about who I am this person I have I want to do this, I want to do that like that. Meaning that all of these I thought they are like scripts, scripted roles that we play in, in relation to other people. So if we if we just kind of take like a weekend off on our own somewhere, it’s not enough time to kind of let ourselves completely wither away. So we started thinking I’m on a holiday right now and when I’m done, I want to go back and you know, work on my project and I want to get a promotion Anatomy, you know how to find a girlfriend, whatever, like those thoughts are still kind of socially mediated? Yeah, but you have to be out at sea for like six months. And then like, you’re, it’s like a completely alien experience. And it’s, it’s interesting just to be aware of that. And yeah, I think that’s that’s humor in it. There’s a lightness in it, like realizing that, oh, the life that we’re living, we are playing a role. It’s a it’s a game, although stage and so on. And you know, you also you see it in like, if you watch Lion King like Rafiki, that character is kind of cheeky trickster energy. And he’s like, Oh, you have forgotten who you are, and who are you. And it just kind of messes around with that, it kind of pointing at the fact that I was concept of self is kind of fictitious in a way. And I do think that can give people if, you know, that might drive some people a bit crazy if it’s overwhelming. Joseph Campbell has another quote about how the mystic and the psychotic like a person having a breakdown, they are both kind of, they’re both diving into the same sort of inward sea of deep subconsciousness. But the challenge is that the mystic is skilled, like he can swim, he can navigate the waters and whereas the psychotic is drowning and struggling, and he can make sense of what’s going on the schizophrenic experience. And yeah, you know, that’s another thing that I think is very exciting, a little bit scary, but like, it’s very consequential. And it’s like, one of another one of my primary fascinations, but understanding everything, like how we relate to the world.
William Jarvis 26:36
God, there’s a lot, there’s a lot of good stuff to unpack in there in there. It almost seems like we build our self kind of concept against other people. Yes, like, you know, like, our mental model, you talk about someone going out to sea and being alone and
realizing, I mean, it’s and when you think about it, it’s like, how else would we actually write you know, it’s a, we, and it’s always interesting to ask people who are siblings, like, uh, you know, like, just how how their sibling affected their self concept, like, very often, you know, like, a cliche with when, when they are two sisters, for example, right? It’s like, somehow the family will be like, Oh, this one’s the pretty one. And this one’s a smart one, which is kind of kind of cool, but it just happens. And then then they might either lean into those roles, or they might react against those roles, but either way, it kind of it’s, it’s a very intimate question to ask, because, you know, it’s, it’s like, you know, what was just how was your relationship with your family and your, you know, how did people perceive you? And if you ask it with a kind of genuine curiosity and sympathetic energy, people, people love to really kind of open up and share that because it’s so personal. And yet, it’s, it’s not up to them, right? It’s like how, how they were raised in a sense
William Jarvis 27:52
that I had never really thought about that a lot. But that that’s, that’s a really, really interesting it’s
this is like a fractal that scales all the way up and all the way down. So like, you know, your ethnicity, your gender, your all these things. You might not have thought about it. Like, you know, I think most guys you’ve talked to casually, they won’t be like, Oh, I’ve never thought about what it means to be a guy. But you have ideas we have ideas about Oh, guys don’t do this kind of thing. Guys do that kind of thing. You know, you’re supposed to be this is supposed to be that. And yeah, it’s just an same for like people are so opposite a nationality, people of a certain culture. And it’s like, we are each assemblages of all these stories of sorts that we might not think the question. And yeah, it’s just, I do feel that, you know, I think that’s, that’s like a quote about Zen. I mean, there’s a whole bunch of different quotes about about Zen and meditation and all those things. And they say things like, you know, Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water after enlightenment, chop wood carry water, which is like, yeah, so it might be before you question your entire reality, or living your life. And then after you question your entire reality, in that moment, you might be like, Oh, my God, what’s the meaning of anything? What’s the point of whatever, but then you kind of come back down, and you’re like, oh, okay, this is my life. And I inhabited it. And this also reminds me of a tweet, I think I went so someone said, my sister came up to me and said, Hey, we’ve never been formally introduced. Hi. And it’s, it’s funny. And it’s also it’s also interesting, like, there’s all these ways in which we kind of we are born into the middle of stories, and we just never sit down. There’s there’s no like, there are no rituals and ceremonies for for like figuring these things out. And yeah, you know, I think this kind of ties all the way back to the start of like communities and stories and all of those things where people do need rituals and ceremonies to contextualize things and you know, even and for some people that might sound very abstract, but like, I always find out that you know, a wedding for example, it’s a it’s the most universally understood ceremony, right? It’s like, right, let’s look up, there’s a couple they’re coming together. Their families are there, there’s a you know, there’s a priest or whoever it’s like the community leader, friends around, they do a bunch of stuff. light candles or they might, you know, put a ring and then they say some words and it’s about. And what happens is that it’s it’s a collective kind of ceremony and what’s what’s the point of the ceremony, right? It’s to kind of imbue a moment with meaning, right? And so if, if it’s a very stable and familiar ceremony, nobody’s even thinking about that. But like, yeah, so a wedding ring, we understand it as a talisman. Right, actually. And we recognize it as it’s a symbol of couples bond. And, and you know, you might, it’s understandable why people have emotional attachments to that, even though it’s just an object. Yeah. And then the cool thing is extrapolating from that, and realizing that you can, at any point in time, decide to introduce some kind of ceremony for yourself or for your friends. And you can, you can, like invent meaning sort of, and it’s not completely arbitrary. It’s like, there’s some amount of costs some amount of effort, like, like, what you put into it, is what you get out of it. But just, like a lot of people that it doesn’t occur to a lot of people that you can make your life more meaningful, by, like, authoring your own ceremonies, which is very powerful thing to know how to do. Yeah.
William Jarvis 31:13
That’s, I love that. I love that. And that leads me to my next question, you know, what kind of role do you think God or religion has in meaning creation?
Hmm. It’s, um, you know, so when I grew up in Singapore, which is a very diverse and space, right, so it’s a long a maritime trade route. So there’s a lot of different kinds of people. So there’s Hindus, Christians, Muslims. And when I was a child, I remember I used to go to the library a lot. And I was fascinated by Egyptian mythology, Roman mythology, all these things. And so you know, I wouldn’t say I was ever so my parents were moderately religious, I wouldn’t say they’re like, devout, but like they’re practicing. So they’re practicing Hindu. And so they would bring me to the temple. And it’s like, you know, Deepavali is like our, our annual ceremony, festival of lights. And then I’ve had friends who are like, Christian Buddhists, all those things. And for me, I, I never really took it very seriously, I could tell that it was meaningful and important to other people. But to me, this all seemed like, Oh, it’s just, you know, it’s kind of like, play pretend. And I don’t mean that in a dismissive way. You know, because right, when you’re a child, when you’re a child, you like you have your own games. And those games mean a lot to you, even though Yeah, imaginary. And yeah, I, I was kinda, I guess, initially, I just didn’t feel strongly for it. And I think when I was a teenager, I discovered some writings about atheism. And at that time, I was like, oh, you know, that’s, that seems correct to me. And so I spent some time being kind of atheist ish. I labeled myself that for a while, but I wasn’t like, dismissive or like, I a little bit, maybe I had a face, I had a phase where I was kind of dismissive of religious people. But I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like what happened when I had conversations with people. So I started a band with a friend when I was like, 17. And he was I was very, I was, I was kind of atheist. And he was very religious. But we both kind of had shared values of a lot of things. We both like our communities very important. You know, like, we both loved the local music scene, we should try to be good people, like we had all these things in common. And we will have these really long conversations where we take the train from where we live to where I was jamming studios, and I really enjoyed those conversations. And it made me think that I would rather have good conversations with people about all of these things like what’s a meaningful life? How do we be good to each other? I would rather have those conversations, then shut myself off from being able to have those conversations by being like, I’m atheist, you’re religious, you’re an idiot. Like that, then we can have an interesting conversation. And so I’ve since kind of moved to being more kind of agnostic, I guess, I would say it’s like a. So now when, when people want to talk about religion, I’m like, I’m not sure. Which is a true flag. I’m not sure. I don’t know. Like, like, Tell me your story. Like what’s your, what’s your experience with these things? And I find that the conversations are more interesting that way. And I think that this is great blog post on urban farm. I think by Sarah Perry, I’m not sure entirely sure. But it’s like it’s called the essence of peopling and it describes how there is this ties back to like the great man question at the start, it ties back like how, you know, like people. So first of all, you have two people talking to each other, we each have a model of each other in our minds. So I model you, you model me, and then inside my model of you is my model of what is what I think you think about me, which is which is definitely not correct, right, like so we each then, like we think about each other and then we think about what the other person thinks of us. And then it kind of it, like our interactions are shaped by that. And unless we explicitly Well, you could do implicitly but like you unless you have a conversation about about your respective models, you will end up kind of misunderstanding each other, and it’ll be awkward, like messy conflict happens there. And then you take that two person kind of model, view your model of meeting, and then you kind of turn it around, and you frame it for bigger and bigger ideas. So like, a community’s idea of the community leader, or like, you know, the, all the children’s model of dead or, you know, like, all the employees model of the boss and the bosses input model of employees and so on. And like that, that what Sarah pointed out was that, like, you know, so then your model of let’s say, like, a very important public figure, like the president, right, it’s mediated by the media and and by whatever else. And so you, you, you approximate what you think about the president based on like, what information you receive about him, it’s not like you’re interacting with him directly. And then from there, she goes on to point out that the mind of God is kind of that intermediated by the priest class, and all of those things. And it was just, I mean, I bring that I don’t know why, but it’s just interesting to reflect on in that.
Even if a person doesn’t materially exist in, they can still have an effect on everybody else. Okay, here’s so here’s an interesting example. Right? They take like, Steve Jobs, right? He’s passed away, like, more than 10 years ago. But like, in a sense, the spirit of Steve Jobs is still at Apple in the sense of what are all the people at Apple imagining that their founder would want? And it’s even if it’s the current CEO, Tim Cook, let’s hear and Tim Cook would also have an idea of what would Steve want? Like everyone said, Well, we’ll see. And so in that sense, the imagining of Steve Jobs, and this is this could be entirely different than what Steve intended, you know. But it’s, it’s this this kind of Agra, God, it’s kind of mental image of Steve is still animating the company in some, in some sense, in a very real sense, even though the guy is no longer around. And not to imply that Steve Jobs is God. But like, that’s kind of, that’s how I imagine I think, you use and you use that metaphor, and then you think about, like how a village might run and it’s like a village founder. And then you expand that into like a city know Athens had Athena, who was like the, the city of the goddess of the city, and then you just kind of go bigger and bigger. And eventually you get to Abrahamic religions, and the idea of like, an infinite one true God, omniscient, omnipotent. And yeah, it’s it’s like, I, I can’t, I don’t really have an like, like a fixed opinion on whether or not there’s some cosmic being. But I know that people, a lot of people have that kind of idea in their mind. And, you know, we know that historically, it’s been like that. So like, 500 years ago. So if you go like Western civilization in Europe, for example, it’s like, everyone basically believed in God right before before the plagues, and the Reformation and all those things, like there was a time where everyone believed in God, and that would have informed all of society informed like this is churches, there’s a concept of authority, there’s concepts of law, it used to be that people didn’t do crimes, because they were afraid of retribution from from divine retribution. Right. And then, and I mean, it’s more complex than that, but I’m scheming. And so eventually, when you know, when Nietzsche wrote, God is dead. People always only code that phrase, but if you read the whole thing, he says, God is dead. We have killed him and what like, what, what? How, what are we going to do about it? Like how do we replace the void? Of what we have dethroned? Right, like, well, how are we gonna live up to? We have to become Gods now we have to be we have to step into that role that we have, we have kind of eliminated. I’m not doing that justice. But there’s just this sense that, it seems to me that for some reason, I don’t know how far back you have to go. It’s a human impulse to imagine the unknown. Imagine, you know, and it’s like we are cursed with with the knowledge of our own mortality, right, like, so I don’t think that monkeys go around worrying that they’re gonna die one day. And I mean, I don’t, I don’t know why they think we didn’t know that elephants and stuff have like grapes. So they might.
But like, we know that humans care about, you know, what happens after we die? Where do we come from? Why are we here? What’s the point? And so whether or not there is a genuine, definite answer to all of that. There is this impulse to kind of look upwards and be like, what’s going on? Like, it might be it might be you know, when you’re a child, your parent is taller than you and you kind of look up to your dad like Mom, Dad, what’s going on? And then you just kind of it just seems to generalize from there that there must be and so you know, that your your parents, you look up your parents, maybe your parents look up to like the village chief or whatever. And like, who does the village chief look up to like there’s this that that kind of like a summation kind of thing like abstraction or whatever. And I’m going in very wide detours. But like, I was recently what Singapore every year, we have this National Day parade. And it’s, you know, I used to be kind of so tacky, right? Like all this ceremony, and there’s like one guy in the the Prime Minister shows up in like a modal kid. I’m like, why do we need a motorcade with the, with the prime minister in it? Like, it’s so whatever. And now I’ve now that I when I watch it, you know, what I see now is that that’s a person who is choosing to inhabit the role for everyone else. And it’s like, the motorcade is not for him personally, but it’s for the office, right? It’s for for the representative who is like, he’s not literally wearing a crown. But like, you know, I have a crown in my, in my profile picture on Twitter, which is like, meant to be a reminder about autonomy and responsibility and sovereignty. And anyway, so if you imagine that the Prime Minister’s wearing a crown, right, the crown is not for him, per se, is that he’s the guy in the moment, who is kind of, were carrying the responsibility of everyone else’s well being and everyone else’s. everything right. And so people, and I’ve come to see that, to some degree at our present level of consciousness as a species, this seems necessary to some degree. And I feel like a, you know, maybe, conceptually something like a God should exist, too. I mean, like, so in other times, they say things like, the king must be God fearing so that people know that he is not, you know, he not a tyrant, like, like, the king must be afraid of someone else. And I think Machiavelli might have said something like that, I’m not sure. But it’s is this you must be seen to be answerable to something bigger and greater than yourself. And I think that, if I were in such a position, and like, like, how I will rationalize it is that you don’t necessarily need to imagine that there’s a literal person that you’re, you’re kind of like, bowing to, but it’s like, this personified manifestation of the ideals of the entire community. Right. So it’s like, like, Athena, as Athena is a, is a, personify representation of the ideals of Athens. And when I frame it that way, I find that I can sort of interface with that idea in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m some fraud, and doesn’t make me feel like I’m pretending that there’s a God, when I don’t really think there is one. It’s more of like, okay, like, I’m gonna do these ceremonies and do these things, because I respect the community, and the community seems to have that impulse. Yeah, I feel like, there may be a more elegant way of saying all of the nonsense that I just said, but I think you get the idea. It’s like this. Yes, a certain elegance underlying that.
William Jarvis 42:47
That was really well, Paul is really well put. And I think that’s, that’s a it’s an underrated aspect of what I think religion is for, for most communities. Planning,
I will bet I will see that it can. So it’s like, you know, what I describe as the shaman work, you know, he is he is really short, quick story that I saw on Reddit, it was really beautiful. Like somebody was saying, you know, I’m a parent, and my child just found out that there’s no center and they think that I’ve lied to them, what do I do, and somebody else said is beautiful, they said, center is not sent said that there isn’t a guy named center, right. But Center is an idea center is and the secret is, you now get to join us and you get to be center with us. And there is a global network of people who choose to make young children’s lives better by giving them gifts and giving them a beautiful story to enjoy. And now Now you my child, have graduated from being one of those to receive centers gifts to being one of those who gets to give others the pleasure of enjoying center, right? And I just think this that’s such a, it’s so much superior to Oh center doesn’t exist you soccer you know, like, you know, it’s you get to offer meaning for other people, you get to make them feel like they’re participating in something meaningful. And similarly, like, I feel like a lot of people when they inherit religion, they don’t necessarily think about what I’ve said earlier, which is like the ideals of the city ideals of the community, but what they might just think, oh, you know, I’m born in I’m born in this context. And this is my thing. And like, you know, I worship this, people who don’t worship that are bad and like this, this all of those kind of simplistic ideas. And so it’s like, there needs to be this ongoing effort from meaning workers shamans, where I call them shamans, but you can just call them meaning workers of, you know, what a good priest should be, or a good pastor or a good community leader, is that they kind of transmute the ugliness of reality and not deny it, but contextualize it in a way that is meaningful for other people. And it’s very, very meaningful work that you can do for people. It’s like people feel like oh, my life is so meaningless or it’s so whatever and then you can tell you can help them craft the story. And it’s not a it’s not fake. You’re not You’re not making up stuff. That’s not true. But you’re like contextualizing it in a way that makes people feel oh, okay, my life is meaningful. I’m helping other people and blah, blah, blah. Yeah.
William Jarvis 45:11
I think that’s, I’ve never quite thought about it that way. But I really like that. I really like that. That’s Alex. I’ve got it this kind of a left hand turn. But I was curious about it. Planning, you know, how much how should we think about planning? How important is it is planning in one’s life? And yeah, how do you just have you conceptualize that,
right. So to lay my own personal biases out on the table first, I’m not very good at planning in a meticulous, minute, by minute sort of way. Like, I can’t stand schedules and calendars. And that’s like childhood shit from school. I hated going to school and having time tables and stuff. But I’ve also always wanted to do great things, in some sense, like, just be like this witness cool shit. Yeah. And like, you know, it goes back to projects, right? Like, you don’t you don’t get to dick around and randomly build a cathedral or enemy Villa rocket ship, like those really cool things require concerted effort in a specific way. And so how I think about planning is that for the most part, I think sitting down to make a plan is a it’s a great use of any person’s time. But you should, I believe that you shouldn’t necessarily be completely constrained by any plan that you meet at any one point in time. So like, the advice I once gave a friend was, take a day, every month, right? Like once a month, sit down and be like, like, just kind of imagine how would you like to spend the next year of your life? What are some accomplishments that you would like, you know, what some things you want to see things want to do. And then maybe, you know, if you can think about like, five years out, 10 years out, like just kind of fantasize, like, what, what would be nice, and then you write that down in some amount of detail. And then you disregard it entirely. And you just ignore it and just do whatever you think is interesting. Because what happens is, once you set or once you’ve spent some time to think about it out loud, it will kind of permeate in your subconscious. And then along and then if along the way, there’s like interesting opportunities and stuff like you can feel free to just so you might be like, you make a plan to I’m going to be writing every day, I’m going to every day for the next month. And then like maybe like two weeks in, there’s one day where like your friends like hey, you want to go to this cool party. And you’re like, cool, like, you know, I’ll abandon today because that sounds like an interesting opportunity. Especially if you know, that suggestion might have something to do with something else that you have in mind. But even if it doesn’t, some amount of randomness is healthy, because you get to open yourself up to new opportunities that you hadn’t considered before. But I do think it’s worthwhile to, I think, maybe Eisenhower, there’s some guy who said something like, plans, priceless. And planning is priceless. And plans are worthless, right? Because there’s all these quotes, like a, Muhammad Ali has a quote, it’s like, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, right. And it’s not bad to have the plan, you know, it just, it’s just that when the plan doesn’t work, like you should be comfortable discarding it and just kind of trust that the point of planning is like, it’s like, it’s just sketch out a rough idea of how things might be. But the moment things deviate from that, like you should be open to surprise and open to opportunity and be willing to, to re negotiate and reorient. And then you can make another plan at the end of the next month. And then so for me, I like like my personal planning. Cadence is something like, it’s not even monthly, it’s almost like quarterly, like every, every three to six months or so. So I My birthday is in June. So every June I do one big one. And then at the end of the year, I always do another big one. And I don’t remember all the specifics, I can go and check my notes. And sometimes, years later, I’ll go back and look at my notes. And the amazing thing is, there are things that I made kind of projections about or fantasized about and just had like is this it’s very vague. It’s just, you know, sorry, it’s not vague. It’s very, it’s hand wavy, but it’s quite precise. So I found like, in 2016, I had written something like, I would like to, it makes sense for me to write and publish an e book someday. And then I forgot about it almost entirely. But like it ended up happening later on. And I’ve checked, I’ve talked with a few friends, and they all say the same thing, which is like, if you journal about what you would like what you would want, what do you think would be good? And then you forget about it consciously, it still kind of lingers in your subconscious somehow. So it’s like, it’s like you have this this, this little magic assistant in your, in your subconscious helping you out
William Jarvis 49:25
is still driving things. That’s great practice is great practice. What’s the back that House of Wisdom? And why is it important?
That House of Wisdom so that, you know, I mean, so people usually say the Library of Alexandria, which is kind of the same thing. You know, it’s just there was some period in time where a bunch of people managed to coordinate to do a lot of learning in a short time in a relatively short amount of time. So this has happened in Baghdad during the Age of Alma moon, and he was so done, I guess, and he just seems so I’m still investigating, but it seems Like he just, he was someone who valued learning a lot. And so he kind of made it fashionable amongst the aristocracy in Baghdad at the time, just like the 800 teams. And so like, during that time, there were like great mathematicians and doctor, like medical doctors, and they made advances in astronomy in, in medicine and math invented algebra, algorithms comes from that, you know, it’s like, oh, there was this, this period of great flourishing in a short amount of time. And I think eventually, they got overrun by like the Mongols, maybe my history is a bit messy, but like, just this idea that a relatively small ish group of people can come together and accomplish a great deal that then echoes throughout the rest of history. For me, that’s something that’s very, very exciting. And it’s like, if you look at human history, the impulses to think, oh, you know, if you go back to the Stone Age, we didn’t really have anything. And now we have a lot of great cool stuff. And you kind of think, Oh, it must have been slow and steady progress throughout. But I know life is right. It’s like all of progress. It’s like there’s like no progress for a long time. And then there’s like, big huge leaps. And then it’s like, you know, during like the golden age in the Gupta period of India, they invented zero. And like, like, yeah, you can look around like the Renaissance, maybe like the same thing. So some people argue and debate about, like, How good was the Renaissance for ordinary people, for example. And that’s, that’s fair, like it was mostly like a bunch of rich people kind of doing but like, there have been periods of time where rich people are just kind of being degenerate up to mischief, and they just kind of spending money. And, you know, like, if you look at, you know, how oil money in Saudi spent these days, like, it’s a it’s kind of techie. I mean, that’s my value judgment. I don’t, I don’t want to, you know, kind of piss anybody off that way. But like, is this can we inspire people to use their resources and time and energy to kind of try and coordinate grand projects, and I mean, not necessarily like grand architecture, although that’s also cool. But like, just, you know, art, and science and progress. And if we do it really, really well, if you do really, really right, like that echoes for the rest of human history. And I think that’s, that’s the most exciting thing we can do with our time, like on on this earth is like, so I have this sort of narrative that I have for myself, just kind of like my personal religion, you could say, right, is that, you know, I think that there’s something you could describe as the light of human consciousness. And I feel like, you know, Archimedes had it, you know, our quizzes me had it like this, that this Chinese ancient Chinese folks had an ancient Japanese folk, but it’s not any one ethnicity. It’s not any one religion. It’s just people who care about just human flourishing. And if they pass the torch around, you know, so like, so during the Golden Age, they were translating Aristotle. And you know, Aristotle wasn’t really appreciated by I think, like medieval Christians, because it his worldview was kind of not very compatible with Christianity at the time then. But like, so it’s like, in my mind is like to visualize it. It’s like, there was a light that blossomed in Athens, and then they pass the torch down to Baghdad, and then they pass the torch back. And it’s just like, wow, it’s like everything that we have is, you know, optics or Newton figured out optics is it all kind of ties back? And it’s, it really creates this sense of continuity, I think, which a lot of people feel they don’t have in modern life. And it’s just, it’s just a matter of the story that you tell yourself, right? You can, you can read history and realize that oh, shit, like, there’s this long, unbroken chain, or maybe it broke in some places. And we don’t know, that’s a tragedy, right? We don’t know what was in the library of this and that, and we don’t know what authors and stuff were great and they’ve never heard from again. But regardless, you can trace back the light of human consciousness. Torch to torch it’s like really like the Olympic. Yeah, that’s passing. And it goes all the way back to like the dawn of storytelling, like Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh 4000 years ago. And I find that exciting, I find it like to choose to kind of affiliate ourselves with that kind of nondenominational, just nondenominational people who give a shit about the flourishing of humanity. And it’s like, so I like the kind of cool phrase I use for myself is like, people who are the keepers of the light of human consciousness, right? It’s like, it’s like almost like a secret guild. If you’ve watched if you’ve played Assassin’s Creed, I think they have this idea of like this, this Templar. I mean, there’s just, there’s a whole bunch of different, you know, conspiracy theories, and, and I think the reason that conspiracy theories are so sticky about, like, you know, like, the Illuminati are ruling the world and whatever, like, it’s, it’s almost exciting. It’s kind of exciting and compelling. Even if you believe in it in a negative way, like these bad guys who want to exploit the world, whatever. It’s exciting to believe that there’s that kind of continuity. And I don’t I don’t think those things. I mean, there may be some some elements of truth to it, but it’s definitely kind of a made to be stylized and kind of dramatized to be to be exciting and compelling. But you know, we can we can dramatize history for our own users if it motivates us to do what we love, right? And that’s kind of my approach. Do it. And yeah, I just feel like you can look around in the world today. And there are a lot of people who are smart, thoughtful, and so on, but they feel kind of disenfranchised. They feel like, what’s the point? What’s the point of being smart? What’s the point of, like, everything’s just gonna go to waste anyway, climates gonna be horrible. Like, it’s just like, yeah, that I don’t mean to deny any of those things. But wouldn’t it be nice? If so even if we have to go out, like, let’s go out in like this, this Blaze of Glory, that is really we try our absolute best. And any other point that the I, in my own sort of moral evaluation of my own life, like why why do I try to be a good person instead of just fucking trying to exploit everyone? Yeah. And like, the high frame that for myself is that it’s really about the company, like the people that you hang out with. So you know, we’re here for like, 80 years, maybe 100 100, then if we’re lucky, and like, Who do you want to spend your life with? You know, who do you want at your 90th birthday party, and they, they’ve known you for 50 years, and they really appreciate you and you appreciate them. And it just feels like, it has been a good journey together. Right? Like, if you think about like, some of my favorite movies, some favorite TV shows that go on like, seven, eight seasons, and you you invest in, you watch even a game like video games, or some video games, like, you know, Final Fantasy seven, or six or whatever, you play these games. And so you invest like 80 hours in it, and you feel that at the end of it, like wow, it feels it’s an honor to have served with you, my fellow right, you know, even if you’re gonna lose, right, it’s like that these are, these are my brothers in arms that I fought alongside and I would die for them. And I think these feelings and values, I think they are pretty universal, like we it really resonates with us, because it’s what we want out of life, we want to feel like we matter to people that matter to us. And yeah, so I think that we can make an effort to kind of
light our own beacons in our own hearts and in our own work, and kind of put out feelers that welcome other people who share the same sort of ideals. And, you know, I don’t want to be like pushy about it, you know, there’s all these ways that things can go wrong, you can be kind of, you can promise too much. And then you can kind of be cozy like people thinking that you’re going to save the world and stuff. So like I try to I try to, I try to be ambitious, but not promise, like over promise things to people who might be so some people are really, really down bad, like really bad. And, and when they hear something that sounds like a magic solution to all their problems, they like they rush into it, and then they get kind of culty. And it gets weird and bad. So I want to avoid that. But like amongst like sensible, thoughtful people, I think people most of the people I talked to, they tend to veer on the side of being a little bit too critical of themselves a little bit too cynical about about this, how the world’s gonna turn out and just kind of, it’s kind of sad, kind of, like the media environment is optimized to incentivize that, right? So it’s like, whatever people think is neutral, like how you like most people, you can, if you don’t do a lot of self authorship, and you don’t do a lot of like, careful curation of your of your narratives, then it’s very natural to just kind of by osmosis absorb, what’s the default media stuff. And you might even think, Oh, I’m gonna listen to the media. And if it’s just like, in the background noise, or some terrible shit happen, they’re all just like, some political fight. And he’s just the background noise of your life. Your your consciousness feels like Ash doesn’t sound that great. And then you’re like, Well, what am I doing, I just get a job and just make some money and just try to have a bit of fun going on holiday here. And then yeah, whereas, like, if you could have a narrative that’s like, alright, you know, I’m, I’m not going to be able to save the entire world, like, it’s not my job anyway, like, I’m just going to do my best. I’m going to find all the cool people on the planet, and I’m going to make friends with them. I’m going to encourage them to do whatever they think is exciting. And then we’re going to encourage each other. And like, some of us might end up doing something amazing. A lot of us might just kind of just have a good life, but it’s like, in, in concert with other people like, like, I just feel like that holes. Like there was a fork in the road somewhere there earlier were described. And like, I think this one was just better. It’s more fun. It’s more interesting. Definitely. Exciting. Yeah. I love
William Jarvis 58:49
that. I think it’s a great call to action to you know, try and do things that are they’re important and find the cool people and help them just for them. Yeah, all of our lives. But, VESA, thank you so much for taking the time to come on. Where can people find your work? Where should we send them?
Cheers, man. You can just like just google me. And I post on Twitter a lot. I’m always tweeting every day. I also have a YouTube channel. I have my own website. So if you just type in VI es a k and v into Google, you’ll see you can just pick and choose like So choose your own adventure. Whatever is your preferred media. So if you like listening to podcasts, I do have a list of podcast episodes I’ve been on on my personal website. So you can do that. You can just search up secondary podcasts. You’ll get the result. Yeah,
William Jarvis 59:34
that’s great. I’ll put up a link in the show notes. Appreciate it. Cheers. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week with a new episode of narratives.