Systems vs Stories


I had a dream last night …. Rarely are dreams interesting to anyone but the dreamer, but I’m going to talk about this one.

I actually had two dreams, but only one I want to write about here. The other I wrote in my dream journal.

This particular dream involved me in conversation with another person. I dont remember who this person was or really what we were talking about. I only remember that he admonished me (it was a he) about not suitably distinguishing between systems and stories.

I am reading a book on animism and in one of the earlier chapters there is a discussion about the problem most anthropologists make when they create a system rather than understand a story. I have not gotten to the part where this is made concrete, but my interpretation is as follows.

Anthropologists see cultures with different systems, systems of kinship, systems of exchange, systems of knowledge, and so forth. The criticism is that in creating a system something is lost. That there is something in the story, in the mythology that we miss when we create a system.

Systems are lower fidelity. Like the expression goes – the map is not the territory.
Systems are quantitative in a sense, they are perhaps a graph theory representation on a phenomena. Mythology and stories are embodied. Style is a body, structure is a body. In creating a system the body is stripped away. The musclss ,the sinew, the nerves, all we have are the bones.

Why do we want to make a system? Well because then we can embody it from our perspective. But perhaps instead we should try and transform our bodies to enter the system from the perspective of the stories that express the system.

We can say something like mythology is a system, rather than (or in addition to) this myth expresses a system justice. How can we enter the mythology? How must we transform ourselves? The map sometimes gives us a way to understand and communicate the path.