Changing the Story

In this Oct. 10, 2012 photo, native saplings are cultivated in a tree nursery to be used in a reforestation project in the At
In this Oct. 10, 2012 photo, native saplings are cultivated in a tree nursery to be used in a reforestation project in the Atlantic Forest region of Silva Jardim in Brazil's state of Rio de Janeiro. The state's promise to plant 24 million trees would help further restore the swath of species-rich Atlantic forest that once covered much of Brazil's coast and ensure that the golden lion tamarin population, once near extinction, has enough room to thrive. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

"The only way to change the world is to change the story."

Like a green shoot in early spring, a new story is trying to break through into our collective consciousness. How can we help it to emerge and grow, help it to change our fractured world?

We know only too well the story that defines our world today. It is a tale of consumerism and greed, sustained by the empty but enticing promise of an endless stream of "stuff" as the source of our happiness and wellbeing. We are finally coming to recognize the model of an ever-expanding economy on which that promise is predicated as an unsustainable myth, the domination of nature required to fulfill it as a desecration. All around us we are beginning to see the ravages of our culture's whole-hearted embrace of this story: a beautiful world broken and dying, on its way to becoming a polluted wasteland.

And many of us now long for a new story, one that will restore to the earth its lost divinity and reconnect our souls to the sacred within creation, a story that will save our planet. Some have even already begun to articulate such a story: a beautiful and compelling vision of the entire universe as a single, inextricably interconnected, living whole, offering a dimension of meaning to our individual daily lives that arises from an understanding of our place in the whole.

But is this enough? How do we change the defining story of our world? Our collective culture celebrates its story of endless desires. It feeds us with its images that, though they can never nourish us, work like a drug for our minds and bodies, even as they exploit us and the earth. We have become addicts to material prosperity and the ego-centered greed that drives it. We long for a story that can give meaning to our daily lives and restore the health and beauty of our planet, but we remain caught in our tale of celebrating stuff.

Once we recognize how these stories hold us in thrall we can get a sense of their power. They are not just slogans created by corporations or politicians, but arise from the archetypal inner world where myths are born. The archetypal power of the present myth of materialism is hard to recognize because it is deceptive as well as seductive. But if one looks closely there is quality of entrancement that is deeper than our rational self. There is also a primal drive to dominate the natural world. We are more present in the world of the gods than we dare acknowledge.

In our quest to redeem our civilization and the planet there is this vital need for a new story, a story that returns the spirit to creation and honors the primal oneness that is the web of life. This new story may also be based upon an earlier story: one in which all of creation was seen as sacred, with humanity just part of the woven tapestry of life -- a story still lived by many indigenous peoples. But this emerging story is also evolutionary, drawing as well on the insights of particle physics into the underlying nature of creation to express its vision of the world as an interconnected whole, in which, like the symbolic image of Indra's net, each part influences the whole. And this new story of creation connects the smallest particle with an ever-expanding cosmos of billions of galaxies -- and does so in a way that bridges science and the sacred, understanding them as expressions of the same reality.

This is a compelling story for our time. But do we recognize from where this new story arises? Are we acknowledging and honoring the inner dimension from which all such world-changing stories are born? If a story is not born from the inner world it will lack the power to effect any real change. It will speak just to our conscious selves, the surface layer of our being, rather than engaging us from the depths. The stories of the past, the myths that shaped humanity, spoke to our individual and collective soul with the numinous and transformative power that comes from deep within. How many men have been called to battle by the archetype of the warrior or the hero? How many churches have been built on the foundation of the myth of redemption? The power of the archetypal, mythic world belongs to the river-beds of life that shape humanity.

But sadly, our present culture has distanced itself from this inner world. We are not taught to recognize the symbolic dimension of our lives, nor to revere these underlying archetypal powers. Our contemporary consciousness hardly even knows of their existence. We live on the surface of our lives, unaware of the depths that are in fact the real determining factors.

There is a new story waiting to be born, waiting to redeem the planet and nourish our souls. It is a story of a oneness that includes the diversity of creation in a self-sustaining whole, a story that can bring back the magic within nature that is needed to heal our damaged planet. It is a story of co-operation rather than competition or conflict. And it includes the mystery of life as well as the understanding that science can give us. It is also a new story, arising from deep within the psyche of humanity and the world soul at this moment in our and its evolution. We are not the sole creators of this story, because it is the story of life evolving, recreating itself anew, but we are needed to midwife it into existence. As with all births it needs to come from the inner to the outer world.

Only when we recognize the inner origins of this world-changing story can we participate in this birth. Only when we acknowledge and work together with the symbolic, archetypal world can its power and numinosity come into our existence and speak to the whole of humanity. Only then will this story be heard. We cannot afford the still-birth of new ideas that lack the life force that comes from the depths. We are called to return to the root of our being where the sacred is born. Then, standing in both the inner and outer worlds, we will find our self to be part of the momentous synchronicity of life giving birth to itself.

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