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We are living through a difficult and rare moment in human history when various meta-narratives compete for our allegiance - our future is at stake. Fromm wrote about the human need for larger "frameworks" or lenses through which we understand our journey: who we are, where we are and where we are going.
Cultural theorist and activist Duane Elgin proposes that we are in the gap "between stories," and need to be able articulate convincing narratives that can guide us toward life-enhancing futures. For these to take hold they must be believable and compelling.
It is all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day dramatic details of what is happening around us. Yet, as important as it is to be aware of and engage in activism - protesting the wrongs that are being perpetrated in our name - we also need to envision a much larger picture of some of the alternate options we can embrace if we are to turn the American-dream-turned nightmare into the potential positive promise that can still be.
No doubt we humans are facing profound challenges; just so we need equally positive narratives ("stories") to transform conflict into cooperation.
Elgin suggests (and I agree) that our biggest challenges are not merely devising solutions to the coming end of cheap oil, climate change or the population/refugee crisis - as critical as these are (and can be expected to intensify); instead the challenges involve bringing images and metaphors of our journey and plausible positive futures. These can be considered "stories of great transitions" that present emotionally compelling larger contexts which can re-frame and inspire our higher potentials. These can then be taken up by media makers, educators, and businesses as alternatives to the grim future that appears ahead, should our current approaches continue as usual -- offering only more of the same.
Four possible narratives:
1) Humanity is growing up --
Over Millenia the human species has continued to learn, transform, and mature. From our "childhood" as early hunter-gatherers we are now entering late adolescence with the potential for forming a planetary civilization -- despite powerful movements resisting this growth. Our current era can be thought of as a rite of passage into global adulthood and human community. We will be seeking a renewed relationship with other human beings, species and the universe to which we belong.
2) Humanity is on a Heroic Journey -
revealing the story common to all such endeavors -- a process of separation, initiation and return. We, as a species, can expect the rigors that classically accompany initiation (in which we will face the consequences of that separation) coupled with a lengthy journey of return. It can be hoped that our initiation will bring sobering and realistic wisdom -- and a vastly increased capacity for joy in connection with all others and the cosmos.
3) A Global Brain Awakens --
We increasingly live in a world with a capacity for virtually instantaneous communication. Our collective consciousness as a species (despite appearances) is gaining a capacity for increased intelligence and discernment. The "global brain" is a metaphor for the worldwide network of people connected by communication technologies. At the same time, largely unacknowledged as yet in both public and private discourse, we are growing into a "holonic awareness" in which we increasingly intuit that we are -- each of us -- connected parts of a Whole -- whatever name we give to it.
4) Integrating Indigenous Wisdom -
This involves the distinction between "older" (more mature) and "younger" cultures, such as our own. Indigenous wisdom is infused with a feeling of communion with the land and a natural sense of participation in the life force in all that we do.
Younger cultures tend to view themselves as apart from the Earth -- with dominion over it -- and a view that sees the resources of Earth as things to be exploited and then discarded. Nature is not regarded as mother, father, or sibling. Rather, it is essentially seen an enemy to be conquered and subdued; it is still highly unusual for people to question this embedded assumption. This is a form of arrogance for which we are and will increasingly be paying.