Everything’s Made Up

October 2021

By Mark Hinchcliffe, Senior Partner, Fishbird


If the world is how you say it is, the question becomes, what are you saying?

“The world in which we live is structured from notions that are completely fabricated: your clothes, your wallet, that we all agree that pieces of paper are worth something. Geography is a complete fabrication. Where does Mexico start and America end? From space, nowhere. We agree to kill each other, to tax each other, to shame each other from notions that are complete fabrications. To me, those are harmful fantasies. Whereas my fantasies are liberating.”

– Guillermo Del Toro, award-winning director, producer, screen-writer and author.


It’s 5:56 P.M. in Ericeira, Portugal and I’m sitting in my burgundy-carpeted hotel room typing this. My MacBook is slowly dying because I forgot to bring an adapter on this work trip and this chill, cliffside beach town doesn’t have a store that sells them. Next to me, the open window lets in the calming white noise of infinite surf. Wave, crash, repeat.

You can feel the power of being on the edge of a continent. On the edge of anything, really. Where things meet is where I like to be. Looking out across the Atlantic, the fog rolling in, feels dreamy. It’s a beautiful world, and I’m grateful to be here.

A friendly knock on the door and I open it to find my business partner, Jason, an outlet adapter in hand. He laughs. “They were selling them up the road,” he says. I shake my head, say thanks, plug in my computer, and reread my first two paragraphs.

When you’re writing about how everything’s made up, you become hyper-aware of this very belief. You start seeing it everywhere. You start seeing how you’re creating your own narrative on the fly. The first sentences aren’t true anymore – never were true I suppose. They do sell adapters here. I unconsciously made up that they didn’t. It seemed like the “capital T,” Truth. But it was just a “lower-case t,” truth.

And that’s what reality is – a bunch of “lower-case t,” truths, that become Truths, when enough people hold them. Here’s the thing, though: there are no Truths. They’re just a mirage, that fades away when you get right up close to them. Just dig a little deeper into my first sentence and you can pick apart the mirage of Truths.

Time? Made up. Ericeira? Made up. Portugal? Made up. Carpet? Made up. Hotels? Made up. MacBooks? Made up. You get the point.

It’s so obvious when you’re conscious of it; how we as human beings have created our own realities. But the thing is, we don’t operate this way in daily life. We don’t approach life as malleable. We interact with it as though the things we encounter are fixed, immutable. In this way, we trade in safety and comfort for responsibility. Because it’s comfortable to hold our perceptions of the world as the capital-T, Truth, even when we perceive things that we don’t like. It’s so much easier to criticize and complain about how things are, than to imagine another possibility. We are validated in holding reality in this way and other people agree with us. We absolve ourselves from the responsibility of remaking what’s real, effectively kicking the can down the road for someone else – another person, another team, another generation.

The problem with this is that the world we’ve imagined isn’t working for most people and for the majority of us, it’s never worked. If empathy is the greatest form of imagination, our laws and systems highlight how historically nonexistent this sensitivity has been for anyone other than white men. But don’t let that become a circumstance to what’s possible now. Because if we’re going to solve the problems we currently face, we need a radically different collective mindset than the one that got us here. And that means we need to deeply listen to the imaginations of the people who for so long have not been invited to the metaphorical table. That means people like you.

Your imagination is your greatest gift. If you don’t like the story being told, you have the ability to transform it. What’s currently in your life that’s causing you stress or suffering? Start by looking around you. World peace begins by being at peace with yourself. What stories are you unconsciously telling about yourself or others that aren’t serving you? We can only reimagine our lives if we come from a beginner’s mind; a place where we give up believing that we know how it is. When you let go of what you think you know, you start to rediscover the world – yourself, your partner, your children, your co-workers, your neighbors.

Meet yourself at the edge again. Stare out into your life like you’ve never looked at it before. That is where you’ll rediscover your power, where you’ll rediscover beauty. And, more than anything else, you’ll be present and open to gratitude.

Wave, crash, repeat.


Mark Hinchliffe is a senior partner in Fishbird, an ontological design studio that generates authenticity and transformation in the post digital age. Based in Asbury Park, Fishbird is opening its first clinical therapy practice in Rumson this October.