Truth and Fiction

John Carlton, who claims to be ‘the most ripped off copywriter in the world’, mailed me today about a topic that, coincidentally, I was considering as the subject of a post here.

His story is that one afternoon he found $2 in a car park, and even though he had spent far more money that day, his find was to change his life. For many years after finding the money Carlton would look around in car parks, even under cars, expecting to see cash that others had dropped.

Psychologists call such rapid conditioning ‘imprinting‘. It’s a biologically determined phenomena, thought, to help infants bond with their mothers.

In fact John Carlton found no further money, in car parks or elsewhere, but was stuck with the behavior until he awoke from this particular trance.

My story begins with a conversation over breakfast today. My wife, Irem, was explaining how the external hard disk, which she uses to back up data, was failing to register on her computer. Her conclusion was that it was broken. The power of her belief was so strong that she had decided that she would have to recreate some documents that she needed for a workshop to be delivered later today. As a result of this conclusion much of her time would be consumed re-writing, and the printing of the re-created material would fall to me rather than the workshop organizer.

When I examined the cause of the problem I found the hard disk to be perfect working order, but a problem had arisen because she was using a USB connector that has a plug to supply power to the drive from older computers that cannot provide sufficient from the native USB port. She had inserted the wrong plug into her machine, so no data was being transferred.

The similarity between these two things is that whilst two events seem to have occurred – in Carlton’s case finding some money, and in my wife’s world a hard drive failing to function as expected by her, each of them led to their changing behaviors based upon faulty conclusions.

John Carlton and Irem aren’t unique in this respect, we modify our behavior based upon the conclusions we reach as a result of events that apparently happen to us, or close to us. The trick is knowing that events occur simply because they happen – none of us will ever find an ultimate cause, and the stories we tell about those events – even when good enough to, seemingly, get us somewhere positive can never be anything more than stories and therefore, ultimately, fictions.

I think our everyday experiences are real in similar ways to how the young can bond with strangers, or similar single powerful events may lead to compulsive behaviours. Just as such bonds whilst, apparently existing between infants and foster parents, ultimately, have nothing to do with genetic replication so events appear to happen because they are expressions of unbroken clarity, rather than discrete signals from objects separated by space-time.
Most do not think in this way. The dominant narrative, of our day, emphasises separateness and independence, even though technology seeks to network us digitally. Often the stories we share seem to separate us into tribes that seem at odds with others. These stories become lives, which demands that people think of themselves as individuals whose experiences are imbued with effort and suffering. Then misplaced striving arises for something that is always present to the awakened.

These geese are thought to be convinced that Christan Moullec, the pilot of this microlight is their parent. This is the current scientific explanation as to why, even as adults, they follow him across the sky, but none really know how, or why, they were apparently programmed in this way:

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