How might telling a "new story" have the power to help shift our collective trajectory?

Our cafe call is now complete (podcast available here) and so we are moving into the next phase of our conversation, which we invite you to continue here in the forum and out in the world.

Our great thanks to New Stories Executive Director Jeff Vander Clute and Great Transition Stories Executive Director Duane Elgin for being our main conversation starters for this juicy dialogue, and also to our special last minute guests David DeGraw and Joel Levey.  It was a pleasure having all of you with us and we look forward to further collaboration.

We will revisit our "Occupy a New Story" theme on the Vital Conversation for Monday September 10th, when we will explore the story "A Global Brain Awakens."  Please join us again for that call (time and registration details in the box on the right hand side of this page).

Meanwhile, this conversation continues...  In this next phase, we again invite you to engage one-one with people around you.  You can use the three questions that framed our conversation on the phone:

  1. When you look at the overall behavior of the human community -- the 'social average' of human behavior -- what life-stage do you think we are in?  Toddler?  Teenager? Adult? Elder?  Ask why that their answer, and perhaps offer your own as well.
  2. Next, tell them that most people on the call chose teenager and that there might be something valuable about digging into that metaphor further.  Then ask: "what was it in your life that moved you most powerfully from adolescence to adulthood?"
  3. Finally, you can invite them to play with the story a bit further around the question: "what does your personal experience suggest about ways to catalyze a shift to adulthood and about where we might see adulthood already emerging?"

Consider having this conversation not only with people you feel are generally aligned with your own beliefs but also with someone whose opinions you find challenging!  Share your own perspective too, but try replacing certainty and advice with curiosity.  Try asking: "tell me more about that," especially when you hear something that challenges you!

Please post your own thoughts below, as well as anything that emerges from conversations you engage in with others (note: you must be registered and logged in to post).  

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Thank you, Mushin, for the praise--so glad you found the conversation stimulating and valuable--- and for these wonderfully detailed notes.  Our podcast is also now available here.

Now that we've discussed the story together, please take a few minutes to look at the "Humanity Is Growing Up" page at (we didn't want to send you here before the Cafe Call and push you towards the "humanity is a teenager" perspective in advance).  Here are a few highlights:

If people around the world are accurate in their assessment that the human family has entered its adolescence, that could explain much about humanity’s current behavior, and could give us hope for the future. It is promising to consider the possibility that human beings may not be far from a new level of maturity. If we do develop beyond our adolescence, our species could begin to behave as teenagers around the world do when they move into early adulthood: we could begin to settle down, think about building a family, look for meaningful work, and make longer-range plans for the future...

Our self-image could therefore be that of a young species that is capable and gifted with untapped potentials. We could see ourselves as immersed in the predictable struggles and turmoil of our adolescent years and ready to move into our early adulthood where we are concerned with the well-being of the Earth and the long-term future of the human family. Despite humanity’s seeming immaturity in the past, we could be close to taking a major step forward in our evolution into early adulthood as a species.

Adolescence is a time when others—such as parents, schools, churches, and so on—are generally in control. As we step into adulthood, we enjoy a new freedom from control, and a new responsibility to take charge of our lives. In a similar way, during our adolescence as citizens of the Earth, most humans have felt controlled by someone else—especially by big institutions of business, government, religion and the media. As we grow into our early adulthood as a species, we will discover that maturity requires taking more responsibility and recognizing that we are in charge. Instead of waiting for “mom or dad to fix things,” an adult is one who pays attention to the larger situation and then acts, recognizing that our personal and collective success are deeply intertwined.

Responding to your posted statement, Ben

"If people around the world are accurate in their assessment that the human family has entered its adolescence, that could explain much about humanity’s current behavior, and could give us hope for the future."

What am I missing? This statement is ridiculous to me in its implication that an ego can assess itself objectively. This doesn't even consider, in the light of common spiritual assessment that most of us are asleep to our limited, fearful, truncated lives. It's like the cocky Mississippi frog proclaiming his home the greatest body of water ever to exist on the earth.

The 'intelligence' missing from the assessment above is not from a flawed self image so much as from no longing for truth... probably not knowing there is a 'truth' beyond what they themselves know.  ****notice how this might also be you and I and all of us, no?***

Is it possible, Dyck, that part of the power of a New Story is that it "instantly" wakes someone up by reframing the context in which they consider things?  All of a sudden, dysfunction and chaos can be viewed as possibly being part of a logical/normal process of maturation, rather than a collapse into decline and disarray.

Are you sure that so few of us are "awake" and/or "longing for the truth?"  How can we tell?  Does the teenager realize that her whole perspective on life is going to change is a few short years?  That his brain is still developing basic reasoning capacities?  That the powerful urges and passions that control her will subside and a deeper state of emotional grounding is possible?  And of course, not all teens make it.  And not all adults really manage to mature.

Ben, the state of things I perceive is not doomsday at all (even without relying on a New or 'dream' Story).  It's first an acknowledgement of what is.  In time change happens, without us 'trying' to do anything.  There isn't agreement so that's that.  But, agreement does not make anything true or false.  And the metaphor of adolescent society doesn't totally work besides. 

But, natural intelligence will take care of our development without our help or hindrance as it has since time began.  And suffering is part of it, being the true and lasting teacher.  I realize man (including ourselves) hasn't given up his arrogance, thinking he can outsmart nature... and our suffering goes on.  In our conversations, I'm hearing "lets work out ways to accelerate our maturing."  I must not understand the problem.  Can someone explain how maturity even fits a problem of self-centeredness, or lack of compassion, justice, morality... or any higher awareness.

Yes, I'm quite certain of common state of not being awake to life... as evidenced by what we're being fed by TV, Government, Corporate control, elections, and on and on....

Towards the end of the conversation, Jeff mentioned Donella Meadows analysis of the twelve leverage points for systems ....  Here are the second and first most effective leverage points, as laid out in the Wikipedia summary of her monograph on this subject:

2. Mindset or paradigm that the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises from

A societal paradigm is an idea, a shared unstated assumption, or a system of thought that is the foundation of complex social structures. Paradigms are very hard to change, but there are no limits to paradigm change. Meadows indicates paradigms might be changed by repeatedly and consistently pointing out anomalies and failures in the current paradigm to those with open minds.

A current paradigm is "Nature is a stock of resources to be converted to human purpose". What might happen to the lake were this collective idea changed ?

1. Power to transcend paradigms

Transcending paradigms may go beyond challenging fundamental assumptions, into the realm of changing the values and priorities that lead to the assumptions, and being able to choose among value sets at will.

Many today see Nature as a stock of resources to be converted to human purpose. Many Native Americans see Nature as a living god, to be loved, worshipped, and lived with. These views are incompatible, but perhaps another viewpoint could incorporate them both, along with others.
We are the story / each in our own way. How we endup supporting each other is recognizing the common elements. The WBV machine has the capability of accelerating the process . Recognize / or not. That will be your story.

Thanks to all who participated in yesterdays conversation - "How might telling a "new story" have the power to help shift our collective trajectory?".   One post reaction that I had to the conversation was that most of it focused on what stage humanity was at - teenager being the consensus.  My slight disappointment was that the stage conversation served as a distraction from what was implied in the title, or more accurately what I interpreted from the title, the 'telling a "new story"' idea.  If I recall correctly one individual, I think it was Michael, referred to Brian Swimme's documentary "The Journey of the Universe" but his specific comment (which unfortunately I cannot recall) appeared to minimize the significance of what that documentary attempted to expose.  Here is a quote from Brian Swimme:

"I am convinced that the story of the universe that has come out of three centuries of modern scientific work will be recognized as a supreme human achievement, the scientific enterprise's central gift to humanity.  For the first time in human existence, we have a cosmic story that is not tied to one cultural tradition, or to a political ideology, but instead gathers every human group into its meanings...  We are in the midst of a revelatory experience of the universe that must be compared in its magnitude with those of the great religious traditions.  And we need only wander about telling this new story to ignite a transformation of humanity."

During the period 800BC to 200BC (typically referred to as the Axial Age) the roots of all of today's religions and spiritual practices evolved in the areas that today encompass China, India and the Middle East.  That period of time was one of extreme chaos, societal disruption and in a sense a battle of the gods.  Anyone living during that time (discounting those in charge - kings, pharaohs, prophets, etc - that had their agendas) were immersed in a diversity of stories and teachings that were attempts to influence how people acted within the cultures in which they endured life.  In the end religions conceding power to a single God (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), a religion retaining allegiance to many gods (Hinduism) and spiritual practices that evolved without a god (Buddhism, Taoism) survived and permeated all current world cultures.  Just think for a moment about the level of understanding of the nature of reality that existed back then as compared to our awareness today as afforded by science.  No wonder that gods were so powerful a resource to rely on during that time and interestingly enough the appeal to the power of self in the Eastern spiritual ways.

The power of story is evident when considering the 'meaning making species' known as homo sapiens.  Unfortunately over the millennia within which we have been weaving stories a major consideration must be given to the level of 'truth' that resided within them.  And of course during those times 'truth' is always relevant to the cultures within which they were derived.  Today - let's say within only the last few decades - has humanity reached the point where we can now point to a 'story', a 'new story' in terms of scientific understanding, that has relevance to all humanity and all cultures.  The challenge we face is how to present the story in such a way that those listening to it will internalize it to the point that it has significance influence on beliefs and behavior.  The need to feel connected, not only to each other (globally), but to something much greater than ourselves has been known (as the brief history I related above) for a very long time.  One of the choices I have made over the past 18 months since "The Journey of the Universe" was released is to go out and tell the story (as Swimme suggest) and gauge the reaction of those listening.  So far the response has been extremely positive with such comments as 'thought provoking', 'passionate presentation', 'inspirational', 'raises many questions'.  I am scheduled to give it 3 more times this fall including one session to a group of Quakers in Cambridge, MA that have been pursuing their own investigation of the 'New Story'. 

I look forward to whatever thoughts others may have on just how important a 'new story' is to our ongoing evolution.  There is a lot more to be said but I will leave at this for now.  Thank you for listening/reading!!

Thank you for this thoughtful reply, Richard.  I went back and listened to what Michael Nagler said (around the 91 minute mark of our podcast).  His comment was that the kind of story he and others in his group on the call want to see us tell isn't so much a "narrative" (which is how he views Swimme's version) as it is "a set of proposals about what we think human life is and where we're going on this planet."  Michael has started another forum thread here, by the way, where he talks more about his suggestion,

Personally, I'm not completely clear on why the distinction Michael is drawing is important to him.  Some versions of the new story may have more of a narrative quality than others, to be sure.  Some work more as metaphors, such as my favorite--the metamorphosis of the butterfly.  Some might be characterized as fairly literal interpretations of "reality," and that sounds like Michael's preference.  

I see value--and I think this connects to your desire to see us more directly explore "the 'telling a 'new story' idea" (versus playing with this particular story of "humanity growing up")-- in having a range of options that allows each one of us to find one or more that resonate most directly with our own way of understanding the world.  I am more likely to explore one of these stories at a deeper level if it calls to me powerfully, and I believe they each invite and are worthy of such an exploration.  And I'm also going to be more drawn to tell it to others and to do so with passion and conviction.  And telling the story to others is, of course, the whole point, is it not?!

By the way, Swimme's work is referenced  in one of the other story themes that are identified at, the site Duane and Jeff are stewarding, in the "Reconnecting with the Living Universe" section.

I understand stories to be powerful because they are 'found' within my experience (personal) and therefore are told without (or sometimes with) pretension or purpose (otherwise they might be more a sales pitch or advice than a real story).  This makes them interesting and disarming when there is no intended purpose except to 'clean it out' of me... maybe even to help myself understand it, or to entertain.  This doesn't seem to be what is meant by 'story' in this forum topic.  Another use is to repeat another's story or one you've heard.  This doesn't seem like it either.

Another understanding of a story is a made-up one, like fiction.  It can be meant to entertain, to teach, or to play.  Somehow I don't see this fitting  to the 'story' forum topic either.

So, can someone tell me just what is meant by 'my story' or 'a new story'?  And what makes it credible or particularly motivating, as I see it being used?

How about "a new guiding myth?" That's a term Barbara Marx Hubbard employs.   She writes:

The last great myth took root during the Renaissance--the myth of progress through knowledge,science, progress and technology. We believed it.  And there was good reason to believe it.  In many ways, life did get better for millions [Ben--I would say billions!] of people.  But the modern world, or at least the Western world, has lost it's "meta-narrative." Its "big story," this myth of progress, began to collapse after the two world wars in which tens of millions of people were killed by the most sophisticated nations and technologies... Since then, we have been living without a myth or a large enough vision or context to give us a shared sense of oneness, purpose and direction.

But here is the good news: there is a new meta-narrative. An all-inclusive new Universe Story is emerging under the surface of the old news of crises. It is the evolutionary worldview.

Birth 2012 and Beyond, pp.37-38

The framing we explored yesterday--"Humanity Is Growing Up"-- is simply one flavor of this meta-narrative that suggests we are in the midst of--or perhaps have the opportunity to catalyze-- an evolutionary Shift in the nature of the human presence on this planet.

I do acknowledge power of Myth, tho I admit to not reading Hubbard's book (& ack her credibility and yours too for that matter, Ben).  I really haven't given much thought to specific results of myths.  Whether good or bad seems implausible to determine.  E.g. did the myth to which you refer result in Capitalism? E.g. does "progress" mean happier life or more things to occupy us, or what? 

Generally, what is contrary to my construct of life (hence my sensibilities)... is, thinking my way into the future by imagining it, then trying to produce it.  Actually, seems absurd to me although I do admit it happens socially... (never assumed it was a good thing tho.)  But now I see being added to this, some people (in Occupy?)  trying to cause the 'right' myth to be created so that the 'world' will follow it... and I say, better those people simply work humbly on finding and beginning their own inner journey toward perhaps self identity or such.

I view myth such as Er Myth as one that evokes wonder and imagination in trying to grasp its meaning.  I wonder how many different variations man has come to of the heaven and hell story for example.  I also view myth to help communicate complex things that are not readily or aptly told by other means.  The term mythopoeia is known as a means of literary criticism invented to help capture the critique of myth.  It's premise as I understand it, is that to tell the (complete) Universal Truth every art form on earth is necessary.

Incidentally, the 'shift', in my opinion, has been going on a very long time, but seems to do with numbers now.  People are familiar with evolution of all life... the development or advancement of the physical, including conscious mind, up to the fully conscious man into a gross state and world.  After that, the advancement of man toward realization & use of full consciousness is inward, a spiritual involution (perhaps this, my construct, is another topic)


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