We each inhabit two very different worlds simultaneously: the real world, and the narrative world.
The real world is the physical world of matter, of atoms and molecules and stars and planets and animals wandering around trying to bite and copulate with each other. Science does not yet understand much of this world, but it can reasonably be said to have some degree of existence to it.
The narrative world is made of stories, of mental chatter about what’s going on. It is only related to the real world in the loosest of terms, and commonly has no relation to the real world whatsoever.
In the narrative world you exist as a person with a certain name and a certain life story with a mountain of adjectives attached to you, some believed consciously and some believed subconsciously. You are this, you are that. You are inadequate. You are inferior. You are clever. You are fat. You are unlovable. Whatever. Words, words, words, words, words.
In the real world what you think of as “you” exists as an organism, breathing and digesting and pulsing and moving in the appearance of time. No thoughts or words need to occur for this organism to exist; it just is whatever it is.
In the narrative world, your surroundings are experienced as friends and foes, good and bad, right and wrong, threatening and non-threatening. Churning, babbling stories about what’s happening pervade the experience of the narrative world: those people over there are bad people and should be punished. Those people over there are the good people and they should be rewarded. That man is blah blah blah. That woman is this and that.
In the real world, your surroundings are experienced as raw sensory data: sensory impressions arising in each point in spacetime. Breath going in, breath going out. The feeling of feet on the ground. Sound of a bird call. Sight of a passing car. It’s all just happening as it is, as whatever it is. Simple. Present.
In the narrative world, the United States changed dramatically on the 20th of January. If you live in one narrative echo chamber it changed dramatically for the better, if you live in the other narrative echo chamber it changed dramatically for the worse.