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Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Nobody knows what is going to happen. Given what you know about your situation, you could make some predictions on what is likely to happen, but you do not know. A big rock could fall out the sky and crush you. That would kind of put a crimp in your plans. The odds are slim that such a thing would happen, but it is possible. Closer to home you can be pretty certain that things will go as you expect them. The farther from home you look, and the more people that are involved, the more uncertain the future becomes.

The world is a complex place, and it is especially complex for humans who can comprehend just how complex it is, which can make decision making difficult. For some things we rely on our instincts to guide us. We are fundamentally animals, and we have a full set of instincts. For many other things, we depend on our minds to make a decision. But some questions are very complex, and trying to figure out the best decision can be time consuming and arduous. In most cases a decision is not critical. Should you have a Coke or a Pepsi? Should you take the freeway or Main street?

But other decisions, should be given a little more thought. Unfortunately, there are some questions where there is just not enough information available. The future is unknown. All you can do is place your bet and hope it turns out okay. Our beliefs help us decide what to do in cases like this. And where do our beliefs come from? They come from storytellers.

We start off nursery rhymes and stories our parents tell us. We move on to school where we pick up more stories, probably as many from our classmates as we do from actual school. And then there is church and TV. TV. Hoo boy. All kinds of stories come out of that box, and most of them only serve to reinforce the stories we already know.

Who are our storytellers? Some of them. like teachers and preachers, have spent years studying a subject and their stories can be considered to at least partially convey the information they have acquired. Others were born with the gift of gab, and by persistent practice have come to be known far and wide. Talk show pundits, for instance, and some preachers for that matter.

This is how wars get started. Somebody stands up and starts telling stories about how we need to fight the enemy and the people around him listen and, if they like his presentation, they will start believing his story. The speaker doesn’t know if going to war is the right thing to do anymore than anyone who is listening to him. But by saying it, and repeating it over and over again, he can sell the idea to all those listening to him, and eventually, by gum, we get a war.

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