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Changing A Cultural Story

I’ve been reading The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible by Charles Eisenstein. It’s got me thinking.

If Eisenstein is right, what our hearts know doesn’t align with what our heads tell us about the world. Our hearts know about love, generosity, sharing, inclusiveness and gratitude. Our hearts know on some level all forms of life on the planet are connected and what you do to one you do to all. Our hearts know we are part of the global ecosystem. 

Our heads don’t see it that way. Our heads tells we are the dominant species and everything on the planet is a resource to be exploited for our benefit. 

We’ve been telling ourselves that story for thousands of years. We’ve built civilizations on it. We’re even using it to justify exploiting the resources of space and spending billions preparing to send people to Mars.

But, something is not right. 

Anyone who’s paying attention to what’s happening in the world knows something is not right, even if they don’t yet want to admit it or know what to do about it. And, it’s more than climate change. It’s more than inequality. It’s more than the rampant destruction of forests and wetlands. It’s more than oceans of plastic. It’s more than the insanity of nuclear weapons. It’s more than thinking we can wage war to solve anything. But, it incorporates all those things.

The story of separation

According to Eisenstein, the root cause of our current dilemma is the story of separation – the story we tell ourselves about being special and different from other groups of humans and other forms of life on the planet. This is the story that allows us to dehumanise people that look different, speak a different language or believe in a different God. This is the story that enables systemic racism and the rape and pillage of the planet in the name of progress.

If this story of separation is so destructive, why does it persist? Why don’t we do something about it?

The short answer is: Our culture is built on it.

It’s the story that defines economies using concepts like scarcity, competition, and survival of the fittest. It’s the story that defines political systems as a battle between progressives and conservatives and delivers government by elites. It’s the story that divides people into groups according to the color of their skin and what they believe.

It will not be easy to break out of the story of separation. We’re immersed in it. The media keeps repeating its mantras to us every day. We teach it to our kids because we think it’s the story of the way things are and we want to prepare them for life in the world. 

We don’t even know it’s the story underpinning our way of life until someone like Charles Eisenstein comes along and brings it to our attention, and then it’s obvious. So, what can we do about it?

Changing a cultural story

Changing a cultural story is no easy task. The story itself determines the questions that get asked in our discussions. We need to become aware of alternative stories if we are to insert alternative questions into those discussion.

A first step is becoming aware of being inside a story. And, we are inside the stories that make up our cultural story. That’s simply the way things work. You can’t not be within a story because that’s how we’re initially taught about the world.

When I started my own journey of self discovery, I started with the religious story I had grown up with. I questioned what I had been told, explored other stories and told myself a new story based on what I experienced. I’ve done the same with other stories – about money and the economy, politics and politicians, success and failure, love and fear. 

When we realize we are inside a story, or using a story to explain how things work in our world, we can change the story when it no longer aligns with our reality.

Changing a cultural story is a massive undertaking but it is underway in many parts of the world. In some places it will invoke revolution. In others it will bubble up from the expanding awareness of people like you and me. 

If you want to be part of this evolution, start with examining the stories you’re living your life by and asking whether they’re your stories or somebody else’s. Test their assumptions against your reality. Be brave, explore alternative narratives and join in the conversation. Pay attention and wonder why when you hear about people protesting in the streets. Question statements made by political leaders and commentators, since every person in a position of power has an agenda, and that agenda does not necessarily include your best interests or the good of the nation.

If you’re interested in exploring how you can participate in changing our cultural story, reading The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible by Charles Eisenstein might be a good place to start.

If you’re interested in starting on a journey of self-discovery through reviewing your personal stories, My Life Is My Responsibility might be the place the start.

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