The Power of the Collective Narrative
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Part 2 of 6.
Jordan B. Peterson, a psychologist and contemporary thought leader, points out that human beings make sense of the world through story. Leading story analyst Lisa Cron adds that stories serve as our survival guide. The only way to navigate this world is to see ourselves as protagonists moving through our own stories, progressing from one plot point to another in order to get to one's ultimate desire. Everything that goes against our objectives or desires are seen as antagonists, or conflict. Every time we make a hard choice, there is drama, and we reach various climaxes in our ever-evolving individual narratives. This is how we make meaning in our lives--we have to see our own lives as a story.
Although it is true that the movie is the filmmaker's way of conveying his vision in a more emphatic and artistic way, it is also an environment where he is able to unlock the power of storytelling beyond communication. In film, the director becomes the facilitator of a larger, more inclusive community endeavor. He leads the creation of a collective narrative--a single story told through the collaboration of various storytellers.
Why is this collective narrative important?
If we make sense of our lives through story, if we create meaning for ourselves by living in stories, then seeing ourselves as part of a larger, grander narrative beyond our own makes our own individual narratives more significant. This is what Religion does. It contextualizes our individual narratives within the tapestry of a universal and divine narrative that is the unravelling of the whole of creation. Whatever your orientation and beliefs are, we all share the same truth: there is a grand and beautiful story unfolding and we are important enough to be part of it.
I felt the same thing in the film set. My individual narrative is the narrative of the first-time screenwriter wanting to prove himself to the industry. But working with fellow artists on the movie made me feel that I am a part of a grand masterpiece. This is not my film in the sense that I did not make it on my own. This is my film in the sense that I am a thread in this grand tapestry and it would not have been complete without me. It would not have been completed as well if it were only me.
There is a stronger bond created between fellow storytellers especially when both realize that they are part of the same story. This is how social units are created--the family, the barangay, the town, the city, the country, the faith. It is more than finding things in common with each other. It is making meaning with and through each other by living in the same story. Being in the same story means you share the same ultimate desire, or if not, at the very least, you are aware that your ultimate desire definitely affects the others' ultimate desire, which ultimately affects the final ending of your collective story.
This awareness of the existence of an intricate, interconnected narrative thread is important to leaders. The leader must see how this thread, this bond, is strengthened or weakened. He must be able to pull these threads together so he can knit it tighter and lead the entire organization towards the climax of its collective narrative.