Do we already know our shared stories?

August 9, 2007

Emotion is our first language. Before infants understand words, they form memories based on the emotional content of their relationship to their parents and other caregivers. This emotional understanding doesn’t disappear as a child grows up, even though it may take a back seat to the written and spoken word. It is still there, available to be tapped in the right circumstances. Storyteller Michael Meade, in his extensive work with adolescents and myth, explains that when part of a story resonates emotionally with an individual, it likely holds a nugget of personal truth that may be exposed and understood. But there’s another dimension to a story, especially a myth or other cultural story: The available truth may go beyond the personal and also open up a connection to the unseen world of meaning that all people share because of our common origins.

 

My own experience in studying some of civilization’s oldest stories has taught me that it is the details of a story, the images that it brings to mind, that can unlock this level of meaning and energy by speaking directly to the unconscious mind. I’ve gone back to school to stimulate my own “narrative intelligence” and to learn how to coax that “story sense” out in other people. For, I believe that we all hold stories filled with deep significance —  we just don’t always recognize them or take the time to slow down and savor them. Realizing that my stories dovetails with yours is the first step in acknowledging each other as fellow worthy humans and establishing a relationship. Imagine that happening on a worldwide scale, at Internet speed! Through the Story Field Conference, I hope to connect with other people exploring these ideas in theory and in practice.

 

Have a seat so we can talk for a while.


New Language

July 25, 2007

curly rose

When I imagine what I would like to explore at the Story Field conference next month many thoughts crowd their way to the surface; I’ll share one, to start.

I notice I am longing for a new language with which to tell my story and invite the stories of others … a language of the senses that evokes an visceral experience as our tales unveil themselves.

In one context this means I’m looking for a language that can ground internet discourse in the natural world. An earthy medium of exchange ala David Abram that draws on the ‘matter’ of our bodies and the world as we experience it directly through our senses. A language that will remind us of the ground beneath our feet, maybe even help us feel the grass between our toes and smell the faint sweetness of the air as we commune with each other in our ‘connected’ freedom from geographic boundaries and gross societal bias.

In another context it means helping my colleagues in the World Café global network find new ways to share their stories – illustrating where, how and with whom this wonderful conversational process is being used throughout the world. I want to co-evolve a language or format that covers our academic needs for analytic rigor but goes beyond that to impart a sense of the spirit in the room and the magic that arises in the middle of the conversation; a language that can impart the passions and dreams of the people that have gathered to listen to themselves and each other.

In still another context I am looking for the syntax and grammar of a language capable of weaving together the multi-media of my own story. I want to share my viewfinder and initiate others into the mysteries I intuit within sound and motion, image and word. I want to sound the poetic drumbeat and call the muse of rhythm to attend my utterances, to illuminate the soundless silence of world-wise eyes staring back naked, I want to carry my listeners into new worlds on waves of light and sound.

All this longing … the search for new forms; I suspect it goes far beyond my personal quest, and hope that I will meet many fellow seekers and co-creators of this new language at the Story Field gathering.


Imagineering

May 28, 2007

Imagineering embraces any use of imaginative narrative to realize, create, or catalyze in real life the potentials we are imagining, usually by drawing people into actually living the story.

Imagineering often involves complete stories, in any form. But it can also involve one or more story elements — metaphors, images, themes, perspectives, conflicts, problems, questions, goals, knowledge, possibilities, and imagined characters, situations, plots, events, resolutions, dialogue, etc.

Role models and “looking back from the future” visionary stories are examples of imagineering.

Imagineers use such story elements consciously to inspire and guide people to reshape their consciousness, their lives, and their social and physical circumstances.

If a story is exciting, compelling, attractive — and do-able — really livable, for its target audience — it becomes a powerful force for change. Such imagineering is a favorite tool of story field workers.

For more about imagineering, including specific examples, see this article.


David Korten Brings Old and New Story Fields to the Conference

May 15, 2007

David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning, is one of the visionary Big Story people we have invited to the Story Field Conference to stimulate our thinking about what kind of story fields we actually want to promote. I was blown away by his new visionary essay CHANGE THE STORIES, CHANGE THE HUMAN COURSE, a downloadable .doc in which he vividly describes the competing story fields of Empire and Earth Community. This piece also articulates very well the rationale for the Story Field Conference. Below is the first of ten pages, to give you a taste:

The invitation to the First Annual Story Field Conference poses three questions:

  • What is the new narrative that is already calling us?
  • What stories — both ancient and emerging — are so powerfulthat they draw us to hope, to care, and to engage?
  • How can stories and the ways we tell them shift society into greater aliveness and wisdom?

The human species is on the verge of self-annihilation, and we are meeting to talk about stories. Far from being frivolous and irrelevant as some might assume, this gathering is at the cutting edge of serious change. The power to shape the stories that frame a culture is a power that ultimately trumps the coercive powers of the state and the financial power of concentrated wealth. Indeed, it is the only power that potentially trumps the power of the dysfunctional, but seemingly invulnerable institutions that currently set the human course. The three questions that will frame our discourse at Shambhala Mountain Center are among the most important questions of our time, because the work of changing the story field of modern culture has become an imperative.

For more than two decades, my work has centered on changing the economic stories that shape economic policy and practice. I did not fully understand the deeper implications of the story change work, however, until my longtime Filipino friend and colleague Nicky Perlas visited me on Bainbridge Island in 1999. An important figure in Philippine civil society and a student of Rudolph Steiner’s theories, Nicky pointed out that in a contest between coercive power, financial power, and cultural power, the ultimate advantage resides in cultural power — call it story power — which is the power to shape the values and worldview of the society.

Nicky helped me see the truth that those elements of civil society which are committed to liberating humanity from institutions of domination have a natural advantage in the domain of culture. To maintain control, the institutions of domination must justify themselves with falsified values of fabricated stories that contradict reality. By contrast, those of us devoted to the cause of justice, compassion, and sustainability need only encourage people to recognize, accept, and act on what they know in their hearts to be true.

For the rest of this great article, download this Word document – CHANGE THE STORIES, CHANGE THE HUMAN COURSE