Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What do people mean when they say "we need a new story?"

I've been thinking about this a lot, because it comes up all the time in spiritual or cultural circles around the "new universe story," or what some refer to as the "new cosmology" (actually, there is nothing "new" about it at all; it's a fairly old story, about 13.8 billion years; we're just discovering it now.).

Sometimes I get concerned that this can easily become "trendy," that it can result in people spending a lot of time talking about story rather than actually creating one, as if that is change-making in itself, when what is really needed are people out there at the roots of the culture upending one way of life based on an "old" story and making a new one by writing it with their lives, their radical actions, their willingness to create new ways of life by living into them.

Photo: Philly Thrive

If this "movement" really does mean breaking with the human story of "separation" (trans: isolation, individualism, self-interest, selfishness, ego aggrandizement, personal wealth generation, personal salvation, etc.), then it also means not retreating into mere story, as if that alone is change-making.

Sometimes we can look at a new story, even one of connection, in a way that separates us still from the harsh reality of the world's growing crises. There is no romantic story of interconnection out there right now as ecologically things are unraveling at a fast pace. That is not a story of "separation." That is proof exactly of how interconnected everything is. Every smart phone we purchase, every LED TV screen, every personal robot (yup, already available), every new thing we purchase and bring home, every hamburger we eat, is contributing to the unraveling. It doesn't matter if that makes us feel uncomfortable or angry (especially at the messenger), it is mere ecological, scientific fact that proves the point - that there is no such thing as separation.

Seems to me we need to tell THAT story first if we are to change it in any way commensurate with the scale of the crisis of unraveling. Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil and perhaps about to be Secretary of State, is all about connection. His connection is more impactful than mine. He can take oil and gas from deep underground and turn it into energy and profits to fuel the global economy.
Photo: Margaret Swedish

No, it's not separation that is our problem (except from one another via racism, nationalism, economic injustice, tribalism, and fundamentalism), rather it's the kind of interconnections that western capitalist economies have fostered. In one story of interconnection, nature is here to serve the desires of one voracious species that knows very well how to do that. The other story of interconnection values the relationships among the whole, holding a moral claim that says the desires of one species do not outweigh the well-being of all life.

What is going to teach us about how deeply embedded we are within the whole - inescapably, despite our species' grandiosity - is the unraveling of that whole. It is in that unraveling that we will learn dependency, need rather than desire, and it will be, already is, a deeply humbling time for economic humans.

In the midst of that collapse, another "story" of connection is emerging. But I prefer to call it community and action, rather than story, lest we think the story is the thing in itself. Sharing a new story does not excuse us from engaging the hands-on work of new creation, especially as that work is critical for our survival, for the health and well-being of future generations on a habitable planet. Story can help inspire, bring communities together, allow for some ritual sharing, develop the culture around the work of new creation, as well as bring joy and fun - witness to the vibrancy and beauty of what we are trying to create.
Alice's Garden - see link below. Photo: Venice Williams



As we begin a new calendar year, one with many troubling prospects in its sights, I want to reaffirm what this blog page is about. We want to share stories here of new creation. We want to know where it's happening, how, and with whom. I don't have to be the only writer either. If you have stories of your own you would like to share, send them along and we will include what we can (1,000 word limit). We hope this might be a community space where people can share ideas for how to go about this critical work, one in which humans must find ways, and ways of life, that get us back into balance with the natural world that we cannot escape and must stop ripping to shreds.

Below are links to a few examples of the kinds of stories we think are great expressions of what we mean by "new" creation, examples that can begin to take us in a radically new direction. I am not singling them out because of preference, but as witness to the new cultures emerging from bottom-up grassroots movements. I could add hundreds more. May they help inspire us to engage in the work of new creation more deeply, more profoundly, in the days to come.

~ Margaret Swedish

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Teens Grow Greens work leads to national recognition for North Side Student
Favorite of 2016: Diverse group gathers in Alice's Garden to address racial oppression  
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