It’s your story that makes your life manageable, digestible, tolerable to you.
I was teaching history, so my point was, we’re about to tackle the history of an entire country. I taught Russian civilization, but let’s look at your own life. If you stood there and told me the story of your life.
Technically, it should take you 19 years to tell the story of your own life, because you’d have to tell me every little moment and repeat everything. But if I sat you down and said, let’s go deep into the story of your life. Most of you last, maybe an hour. So you’ve condensed 18 years into an hour. What are you leaving out?
You know, what facts do you choose to say, what facts do you choose not to use? And who says your perspective is the right perspective? Why don’t I talk to your mom? Why don’t I talk to your dad? Your brothers, your sister, your ex girlfriend. Whoa. Don’t talk to her, your friend, your enemy, the kids who beat you up in school.
All these different people have perspectives on who you are, what you’ve done, why you did it? Why should I trust what you say about yourself? Okay. You don’t even really understand your own story. And these are 19 year old kids. And I said, now multiply that by all the people who’ve ever lived in Russia, all of their stories are like that.
And then they’re creating a national narrative for why Russia is the way it is. Take a national story. The United States, our own country. You know, George Washington cut down an Apple tree, never told a lie, you know, manifest destiny, make the world safe for democracy, saved Europe during the second world war, blah, blah, blah, you know, won the cold war fighters of freedom, all that kind of stuff.
That’s what the cadets believed about the United States. Well then the Russian perspective or the other perspective of the United States, we basically committed genocide against the natives that live there. You know, are we really that noble and, you know, everyone has a perspective on United States history, depending on whether you live there or you’ve dealt with us in foreign policy, how do we treat people in Iraq?
How do we treat people and all these different Wars that we were in? It all depends on where you sit in your perspective, which story is true about the United States and its history, which story about your life is true. I truly believe that no stories are really true. Okay. In fact, I had a professor used to say, history is just fact-based fiction.
You have a set of facts and you choose to tell a story based on that set of facts. Now, if you depart from the facts, it becomes fantasy or, you know, a demagogic type story. And we are seeing some of that in politics right now, but really if you do stick to the facts, And you don’t lie about the facts.
And by the way, what are facts? That’s a whole another discussion. But if you do stick to the facts, it’s simply how you choose to arrange the facts and where you give meaning .
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