In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American novel, The Great Gatsby, the narrator Nick reminisces about his father’s advice: “‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’”
Beyond nostalgia, this becomes one of the substructures of the book, as Nick goes on to meet the book’s characters and withhold judgement.
Why is this is so important?
In the forest of life there are so many voices, so many opinions moving through space. In this maelstrom of opinion, we get swept along.
It’s easy to lose oneself in others’ viewpoints, shadows, distortions, fear, and jealousy. And it’s all in the perception. It’s all in the story. These are merely filters of the mind. Never touching the absolute truth of it—the absolute perfection of it all.
All is interlinked, all is a tapestry and all is God.
Why would God repeat the same parts? All beings, however similar, are also unique.
I see through a prism of my perception and beliefs. I hear through my voice, the voice of my thoughts.
Whatever people say around me, my thoughts are my own. My thoughts are familiar. Repetitive. Scientists have found that people repeat the same thoughts throughout their lives.
Endless stories. And even the same stories.
Christopher Booker’s epic 728-page book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories describes the seven universal plot themes that continually reoccur in story form throughout human history:
Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
Voyage and Return
If we look even deeper, Booker proposes we can see that the seven basic plots are actually differing perspectives on “the same great basic drama.”
The core is the hero’s journey. Booker writes:
“However many characters may appear in a story, its real concern is with just one: its hero or heroine. It is he with whose fate we identify, as we see him gradually developing towards that state of self-realization which marks the end of the story.”
It is in relation to this hero that the whole story pivots.
The basic drama is contained within the hero or heroine’s journey having facing a struggle, concluding with “a final opening out into life, with everything at last resolved.” As described by the archetypes of the Tarot and Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth structure from his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces.
Archetypes are kernels of the human story, important in self-development and self-knowledge.
They are signposts or “way-showers” that narrate the essential masculine and feminine forces of our nature.
Before Booker, Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch proposed that seven themes form the backbone to every plot:
1. man against man
2. man against nature
3. man against himself
4. man against God
5. man against society
6. man caught in the middle
7. man and woman
These themes endlessly repeating themselves in each of our stories, and our collective drama.
The expanse is limitless, the details endless, the imagination endless—yet the form is constantly repeated.
We are the hero within our own story, yet our human self matches all other forms of the collective unconsciousness. Our own personality is merely the prism through which we view humanity.
The self (or individual consciousness) is the perceptual framework from which we view external reality. It is the filter through which we interpret the world. This world is only animated by our perception of it. We literally fill the void with colour.
The people we meet have an infinite array of stories with common themes. It’s so easy to be critical of other people. It takes a bigger person to see beyond a person’s life experience and remember that other people may not have had the same support you had growing up.
I don’t believe people are bad—they just do bad things. Inherently, people are malleable and have innate goodness within. It is only bad experiences or the experiences that haunt a person, that make some go down a path against their nature. Please think a moment the next time you pass judgement on another. They may not have had all the advantages you’ve had…
The importance of Buddhist metta (loving-kindness) is an essential component in not only understanding other people, interacting effectively with them, but also our whole spatial awareness of our place in the world.
Perception is everything.