It turns out that none of us are as rational as we pretend to be. We actually make commitments about life based on a sort of ‘moral intuition’ and these commitments are the first base from which we live. This intuition arises from the fact that every social animal has to make rapid decisions about whether to ‘approach or avoid’ another of their species coming toward them. One of the easiest ways to demonstrate this is through political allegiances, which tend to remain fixed for most of us, for most of our lives. The psychologist Jonathan Haidt explains this in detail.
There are two primary means by which we alter these fundamental perceptions of the world. They are through interaction with people, who are different from us and through the hearing and telling of stories. There are pivotal moments in the history of Western Society. They focus on a shift in the deep level commitments of the society. One such moment was the abolition of the slave trade, when the stories of the slaves were, at last, actually heard in the public arena. Storytelling is such a powerful thing. It is truly how we negotiate the deep things of life.
The Enlightenment has always tried to portray the good society as dominated by reason, but no, actually the good society is pervaded by rich storytelling. We need to feel a part of stories. They help us gain a sense of belonging.
The fundamentalist suffers from a crisis of faith, in that they find it difficult to create a meaningful, rich narrative about their lives and, instead, construct a ‘castle in their minds’, that is not a serious attempt at storytelling, but a defensive strategy designed to insulate them from contrary views and give them certainty in the face of confusion. The dominant economic paradigm of Western society is also an example of poor storytelling, reducing human society to a formulaic, and essentially unfeeling, system. We need a fresh encounter with the world.