Life as fiction

“There are the facts of what people say and what they do; and these, like the lines of a novel, can conjure up a compelling depth – of underlying motivations, beliefs and attitudes from which people’s behaviour appears to emerge. However, as for fictional characters, so with real people: the sense that behaviour is merely the surface of a vast sea, immeasurably deep and teeming with inner motives, beliefs and desires whose power we can barely sense is a conjuring trick played by our own minds. The truth is not that the depths are empty, or even shallow; but that the surface is all there is.

We are fictional characters, in stories of our own invention.”

Excerpt from the MOOC “The Mind is Flat”, taught by professor Nick Chatter from The University of Warwick on the FutureLearn platform.

Even though it may be a useless exercise, incarnating the role of a semi-omniscient narrator and trying to figure out the motives lurking behind other people’s behavioural outputs is irresistible, addictive and provides us with a temporary sense of control – as if our ultimate interpretation of those behaviours might help shape reality itself. Maybe it does. Maybe not. Pardon me – I tend to over analyse things.

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