An accurate story about something is not the same as knowing or fully understanding

An accurate story about something is not the same as fully understanding it.

That may seem obvious. Yet we sometimes perceive and live as if it is – in our daily life and our assumptions about ourselves, others, and life – so it’s good to examine it a little more closely.


A story is any mental representation we have. It’s typically made up of mental images and words, sometimes associated with certain bodily sensations (unique to the story) which makes it seem substantial, solid, and true.

These mental representations is an overlay of the world that’s otherwise here through our senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, physical sensations), and it creates for us the world that’s not here in our senses.

It creates, to a large part, the world as it appears to us.


An accurate story about something is a story that serves as a good and practical guide for us.

It seems to fit the data. Others may agree that it’s a functional story. We may not find anything that doesn’t fit our story, at least not for now.

Stories are not equal in this sense. Some stories fit the data, and function as a practical guide, better than other stories. They are more true in a limited and pragmatic sense. They are also always up for revision based on new data, experiences, and insights.


Stories have their limits.

A story is different in nature from what it points to. (Unless it happens to point to stories.) A menu is not made up of food. A map is not made up of soil, hills, streets, and so on. A story is made up of mental images and words, and what it points to is typically made up of something else.

A story is different in content from what it points to.

A story is incomplete, it highlights some things and leaves a lot out. The world is always more than and different from any story we have about it.

It reflects one perspective and leaves out a lot of other possible perspectives, many of which may come with valuable insights.

It’s understood within one of many possible contexts and worldviews, some of which may make as much or more sense as the one(s) we are familiar with.

A story is a question about the world. Even if it looks like a statement, it’s still a question.

A story is a guide with limited and practical use only.

Its function is not to reflect truth, other than in a very limited and pragmatic sense. It cannot capture any absolute, full, or final truth.


What’s here is ultimately mystery.

We may tell ourselves we know or understand something based on having stories that seem accurate, which may be true in a very limited sense.

Ultimately, the world is a mystery to us. We are a mystery to ourselves.

And that’s beautiful and amazing.

Illustration by me and Midjourney

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