Posted by: Steven Harris | June 2, 2013

Narrative

Some time ago, I heard an interview with James Gleick talking about his book, The Information. I bought the book, but haven’t read more than the first couple of pages. Something about that sampling of the book suggests something to me about the nature of the world, the universe. I have maybe stole this whole idea from seeing just a few molecules of the whole: It (the universe) is made up of information, or, more accurately, of narrative, information that comes streaming at us in linear fashion. I know that the idea of linear time is contested by philosophers and quantum physicists alike, but we all know how the world looks.

We look out at the night sky. Stars twinkle, light beaming across galaxies to reach our eyes. Yet it is an ancient story, long past, the narrative of events billions of years old that are now finished and done, extinguished by the distance and the feeble inadequacy of the speed of light to tell the story of now. Even our most powerful instruments can never gather anything but long perished information. It’s like the report from the messenger at Marathon: Nike! [collapse]

But, really, things and events closer to our senses in a spatial sense are no better. The thing itself doesn’t come into our brain, only information about it, a story of its existence, made real by a sequence of firing neurons in our bodies. Narrative. Everything we know of the world is a story, which doesn’t make the world less real. It makes narrative more important. Our brains don’t need to be told this. Every human inherently knows the importance of story and narrative. We crave these in everything we do. Stories make the world whole for us. Stories make us know the universe and our place in it. I think I’ll read Gleick’s book now.


Responses

  1. It’s one of my favorites. Enlightening.


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