I am currently immersed in the study of narration and narrative distance in my MFA program. More specifically, in omniscient narration. This is the notable bugbear of many writers, to the point that they do not even attempt it in their writing, choosing to write in first- or third-person limited instead. Commonly known as the voice that is “playing God,” the omniscient narrator does not necessarily know everything or see everything, but has a greater ability to go into various characters’ heads than other narrators.
What is omniscience? The ability to know everything. Is this truly possible? Is it possible to know everything?
In this day and age of Google, social media, everything available on the Internet and in public domain, it certainly seems so. Everything is available with the click of a button, at our fingertips, anytime and anywhere. People from halfway around the world can take a course at an American university, online. Someone in a small town in the Midwest can purchase something online made in a place thousands of miles away. In this Information Age, anything seems possible. Even the advent of Bitcoin and payment services such as PayPal, Venmo, or Apple Pay render currency obsolete.
In Europe, privacy laws are stricter than in the US, something that is very admirable and enviable. One’s personal information should not be distributed so freely; credit card companies and Internet services and marketing organizations know too much about us to degree that is simply frightening.
What can we do?
I would suggest that this problem creates a spiritual void that needs to be filled by our own understanding of something greater than us – call it the divine, God, energy, what you will. It requires that we go within, be aware of our breath, our inner landscape, and most importantly, our intuition. So much emphasis is given to facts and cerebral knowledge that our body’s wisdom is discarded. So much emphasis is given to ascertaining and reassuring that we forget to get in touch with our souls, and a knowledge that is beyond the scientific method. To be sure, I am a very pro-science writer; science is extremely important, and not used enough by our politicians and many people in making important and informed decisions. But there is a place for it, and when it affects our personal lives at a deep level, we have to step back and ask ourselves if there isn’t some greater way of knowing and understanding the world. Even the greatest scientists have emphasized the importance of intuition in their discoveries, and even neuroscience is slowly investigating intuition. This is not to say they espouse sloppy work or lower their standards of rigor. There is too much pseudo-science in the world, and it is equally as dangerous as excessive scientific rationalism. Rather, once they have done all the necessary work, there is something beyond the rational that kicks in, something they can’t explain but they know leads them to the right answers.
Mindfulness and meditation remind us to go within and listen to our intuition. All the great spiritual traditions of the world teach us to sit still in silence. While this may not be an easy thing to do in our modern world, it is imperative. We may not be able to “play God,” but we may be able to “hear God,” to hear something that is beyond our daily practice of rationality and scientific routine. To quote Albert Einstein, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”