I woke up this morning with the (obvious, yet somehow fresh) awareness that this is not only a conference about story, but about the story field. Of course we will work/play together to create new – and share old – inspiring, inclusive and life-affirming stories. What else will we do, to affect the story field? (story fields?)
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.
From an interview of Suzuki in Global Exchange, Spring 2007:
Kevin Danaher: What gives you hope?
David Suzuki: The fact that people have the power to assign meaning to things and then vigorously defend those things. I was at the Dome of the Rock in Israel and I thought, “here is this rock with so much religious and political significance, and it is just a big rock.” But the human mind is capable of ascribing sacred status to that rock. So if millions of people can assign great spiritual value to a rock because of stories they have been told, then we should be able to tell other stories that will convince people to ascribe great value to all the plants and animals upon which our very existence depends.
Thanks to Nancy Schimmel for this. Sadly, Nancy has written that she will not be able to attend the Conference.
“Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it . . . and change it as times change, truly are powerless because they cannot think new thoughts.”
— Salman Rushdie
Thanks to David Isaacs for this.
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.
Another sign of story field work being done by mainstream big names:
Leonardo DiCaprio has produced, co-written and narrated THE 11TH HOUR, a nonfiction film about environmental disaster. “The movie is an earnest and instructive 90 minutes of interviews with experts ranging from Stephen Hawking to David Suzuki, and illustrated with film clips of world ecological disasters. “
The important point for us in the Story Field Conference comes at the end of the article, which shows DiCaprio is operating at the level of multi-media “story field” work. He is producing two movies — one nonfiction and one fiction — specifically to stimulate attitudinal and behavioral changes in viewers.
“DiCaprio said the main point of the movie was to take the audience to a place where they would want to take steps to get involved. It’s a call to action. And it’s an issue that DiCaprio isn’t finished with: He’d like to do a fictional movie about it, as well. ‘But again: it can’t be just a film about the environment for the sake of doing,’ he said. ‘It’s got to powerful and moving. It’s got to be good.'”
The story below gives an example of story field change work being done from above (see also Al Gore’s work). I doubt these folks are going to change the institutional arrangements, power relationships, or unerlying assumptions of our political, governmental, and economic order. But they are doing work to shift the story field, in this case by influencing individual behaviors, and with a keen sense of the interrelationships among media. One of our jobs, I believe, is to shift the story field from the bottom up, in ways that actually change the underlying assumptions and patterns of the systems we live in, as David Korten’s piece below points out.
Murdoch: I’m proud to be green
News Corp boss orders his entire empire to convert and become a worldwide enthusiast for the environment
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
The Independent – 13 May 2007
In one of the most unexpected conversions since Saul of Tarsus hit the road to Damascus, Rupert Murdoch is turning into a green campaigner. He is making the whole of his worldwide operations carbon neutral and setting out to “educate and engage” his readers and viewers about global warming….
…the main thrust of the campaign will be “to inspire people to change their behaviour” through films, television productions and news operations. It will aim “to weave this issue into our content, make it dramatic, make it vivid, even sometimes make it fun”. As a start, MySpace is launching a channel devoted to climate change, and Fox television is developing “a solutions-based campaign”. Today’s Sunday Times and News of the World both major on plans by Gordon Brown for new eco-towns.
Mr Murdoch says: “Imagine if we succeed in inspiring our audiences to reduce their own impacts on climate change by just 1 per cent. That would be like turning the state of California off for almost two months.”
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
I’m saddened to learn that my meme-loving friend Paxus Calta will likely not be with us. But he writes: “My new love is an old story. Contagious Tales is currently a wiki-book of interwoven memetic altruism stories. Open Secret Societies and Quasi-utopian communes…” An evolving book of interwoven imagineering tales, created by collaborating authors. Very storyfield!
I pulled together several of my emails exploring who might come to this conference and edited it into an article called Who is a ‘Storyteller’ — and why such a Conference for them?. I hope it clarifies the wild variety of people we’re inviting, and perhaps opens up an inquiry about a new interdisciplinary “field of study and practice” or a new view of whole-system activism based on story….
Sheri Herndon sent some of us a riff along these lines recently, describing a conversation with friends: “[We asked] ourselves what are the ways in which we are all storytellers, storycatchers, and story keepers. and perhaps what are the roles each of us plays in creating, maintaining, enriching, evolving and enlarging the story field. i see these different ways of accessing and participating in the story field as important. these are story field capacities…what capacities are needed for telling a new story?”
Storytellers, storycatchers, storykeepers, storyspreaders, storyinviters, storyexpanders, storychannelers, storybelievers….
And then there are the destoryers…. (and the destoruction?)