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What’s Your Story? - Musings and Meditations




"It's all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how we fit into the world, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story."




“Wisdom exists in the context of stories, in the context of storytelling, in the context of songs. And all of that is what we’ve lost and what we have to try and bring back.”




““If I am limited to my realism, it is impossible that the world will ever heal. But my realism is an inheritance from a world-story that is much narrower than what is really real and possible.”




“Each person is a story that the Soul of the World wants to tell to itself.”




“You gotta roll with it

You gotta take your time

You gotta say what you say

Don't let anybody get in your way”




Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash




Audio version of this blog post






Dear readers and followers of A Biosphere Project,


Now that I have been “Musing and Meditating” for about six months, it might be good to look back a little.


Is there a common thread that is beginning to emerge with this 27th musing? A storyline or intention that is becoming clear?


Musing is just that: following one's thoughts without a plan, allowing ideas to rise and subside again, giving space to intuitions and spontaneous thoughts without a preconceived plan or structure.

Musing is not something one does according to a plan, is it?

But the fact that it happens without a preconceived plan does not mean that it is impossible for an intention to emerge, or for a line connecting the various musings to become visible.







As I look back over six months of musings, one thing that strikes me is this:I’ve often been talking about perspective, and about story.

In the musings “Deep Time” and “The Overview Effect,” I talked about the perspective of time and space, respectively, and how expanding our perception of both time and space can give us a clearer understanding of ourselves, our real identity.


In “What if we were all still ‘flat earthers?’ I talked about the limited perspective on our planet that we take as the ‘default,’ the perspective determined by our living on the surface of that planet, with our noses pressed down to that surface, as it were, without an overview and without really having integrated what the images of Earth from space show us: that we live on a tiny sphere moving at high speed in endless space.


In “The Most Important 25 Minutes of Your Life,” I talked about a very different possible story of what the Universe actually is and what role we may have to play in it, a story that is not mechanistic like the current one, but one of wonder at the creativity of a living and evolving Universe moving through synergy and emergence toward ever more ordered complexity and elegant harmony.


In “Five Sigma (You Are Not Going to Believe This)” and “A Wondrous Afternoon With an Extraordinary Scientist, Gentleman and Visionary ” I talked about the new narratives emerging in the latest science concerning the phenomenon of consciousness, and how those narratives differ so much from the ones we are familiar with: consciousness not as a meaningless side effect of material processes, but as a fundamental property of the Universe, possibly in a higher dimension than the one we can currently perceive.







In a sense, you could say that everything is story. Humanity needs stories just as it needs oxygen, water or food. And we live in stories, so to speak: every experience, perception or impression we have in our lives is interpreted (mostly unconsciously) through the filter of the story we collectively inhabit.

As I put it in the introduction video on the website's home page:

“Societies and civilizations are defined in large part by the narrative they collectively inhabit. The story that determines what a society considers real, what is considered meaningful, what is considered desirable or even possible. The story in which we collectively live is like a pair of glasses, coloring everything we perceive. And those glasses sometimes even come to define what we perceive and what remains out of our field of vision. So it is very important that we become aware of our glasses”







One could argue, then, that the convergence of ecological and other crises we are going through, what some call the “metacrisis” or the “polycrisis,” is a crisis in our story: our old story no longer works and offers no solutions, no “road map” to a better world. On the contrary, it looks more and more like everything is going to hell and damnation at an ever-increasing speed.

As Thomas Berry puts it in the quote at the beginning of this musing:

“It's all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story.


And the message that more technology and more economic growth are going to save us, sounds increasingly hollow and desperate. That's the old story, the story of ever more control and technological power over our living world. It is becoming increasingly clear that that story is coming to an end, but we don't have a new story yet, we are in between two stories. That space between two stories is called a “liminal space”, and in Tibetan Buddhism it is called the “Bardo”.


That “liminal space”, the space between two stories, is not an easy place to be in: it feels like being lost in a maze, with no map or tool to find the way out.

And without a story, we have no orientation points to interpret what is happening. Everything starts to seem chaotic or meaningless. And meanwhile, the whole world around us seems to be collapsing, and every old order seems to be falling apart into fragments of which it seems highly unclear if and how a new world can ever be built with them.







One of my intentions with the blog and musings is just that: to help spread information that gives a glimpse of a possible new world that will emerge from the debris of this one. An inkling of a more beautiful world even, one that will hardly resemble what we now see happening all around us. And if we leave the hustle and bustle and noise of our collapsing world order and seek the silence in which the voice of our intuition also becomes audible, we can catch the whispers of this possible new and more beautiful world.

As Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy so beautifully put it, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”


Chapters of the new story are thus beginning to emerge quietly but still mostly unnoticed in the apparent chaos that currently seems to be only getting worse.

And that new story, or stories, will be as different from the current stories as the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun differed from the previous story that the sun revolves around the Earth.

But the transition to a new story is absolutely necessary: without it no transition to a different world, without it no transition to a new balance of harmony between our species and our planet. The convergence of ecological crises will not be solved with more technology, but only by moving into a different story.


And the new story will be one of meaning, value and purpose.

Meaning, value and purpose as being inherent in the Universe and in existence.


That is a very different story from that of a meaningless Universe that exists purely by chance and is utterly void of the aforementioned meaning, value and purpose, heading for an equally meaningless end by entropy in an incomprehensibly distant and equally meaningless future.

For if there is one thing that characterizes the current story of Western modernity, it is that it is a story of meaninglessness: the Universe came into existence by chance, life came into existence by chance, evolution is a result of random mutations in genes of mercilessly selfish organisms and the “survival of the fittest,” there is no intelligence or purpose in the Universe, and any value or meaning is a human creation, a kind of “solace” we invent to make life in that meaningless universe a little more bearable. Our technological progress and our control over the meaningless and cruel nature is the only thing that can save us from chaos and from our violent instincts.


That, in a (very compressed) nutshell, is the overarching story, the mythos, the paradigm in which we live. And the idea then is that that story is “scientific,” an idea spread by popular writers like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett. But that story is by no means scientific, and the “science” of someone like Dawkins has long since been debunked by the new insights into biology, physics and systems theory. And this is something I have touched on in a number of musings already. On the contrary, a great deal of the latest science points toward intelligence, purpose and emergence as fundamental properties of the Universe.


And I suspect that many musings and other texts will also address that topic in the near future. Because, if I may reiterate, “Societies and civilizations are determined in large part by the story in which they collectively live. The narrative that determines what a society considers real, what is considered meaningful, what is considered desirable or even possible.” (Repetition is the mother of all education, it is sometimes said.)


And now tell me, with such a narrative as a guiding story, how surprising is it that we aren’t doing really well right now? If you convince a vulnerable, searching and sensitive teenager that his existence is meaningless and his feelings and values are an illusion, that he is a selfish organism that arose purely by chance in a purposeless and cruel universe and that he had better grab what he can before someone else grabs it, how likely is it that that teenager will grow up to be a healthy adult in a harmonious relationship with his environment? (For, as philosopher Báyò Akómoláfé put it so eloquently , “Reality is a teenager!”)

How surprised should we be that that teenager will seek solace in drugs, alcohol, violence, self-harm or depression? How surprising is it if at some point that teenager burns down the whole house?







When I started this blog and the project, I wanted to write some long essays about our mythology, our paradigm, our Story, also from the insights into my work as a visual artist. But I will rather incorporate those essays, some of which I've actually already written, into shorter texts and possible films and a podcast, because my intention is not to formulate a purely mental message about those things in an academic or purely intellectual way, but rather to develop a living set of insights, sensations and meditation exercises that address more than just the head. Because one of the problems is precisely that we approach everything far too much mentally, and on top of that also far too much from the perspective of our left brain hemisphere.






So I suspect that many future musings will address that: the new storylines that are emerging, and how they are so different from what we are used to. And as I said, musing is not something a person does according to plan, but I suspect I will also continue to muse on many questions that arise on the subject of our overarching Story. Questions such as:



“Why should we question the validity of our story? Surely humanity’s progress is undeniable? Surely we are so much better off than ever before in history?”


“Do we really need a Grand Story? There is so much distrust of Grand Stories? Haven't those Stories caused endless misery in the past? God and Country and Progress, isn't it just those stories that brought us to the brink of disaster? And especially religion, aren't we so much smarter now that we no longer believe in such destructive fairy tales?”


“What relationship is there between my personal story and the larger Story we live in? And what if I don't have or want to have a overarching Story?”


“Why do we believe what we believe? And why is it so hard to start believing something ànother way? How can I change what I believe? And is that necessary?”


“What role have different stories played in the development of what we call “civilization,’”and in particular in the development of what we might call “Western modernity”? What stories have so troubled us and so disrupted our relationship with our living world, the wider organism of which we are a part?”


“Can we learn something from the stories that other cultures inhabit?”


“And if everything is story, is any of it true? Or are the stories we inhabit  just delusional?’ Fairy tales we tell ourselves as solace in a meaningless universe?”


“And why would it really be necessary for us to change our collective story? Can we really not solve our problems through more technology, which has already given us so much power over that senseless and indifferent nature?”


“And what does all this have to do with me? What good does it do me, all these great stories?”






You see: plenty to muse on for some time to come. Over the next few months, I'll continue to feature some wise people who have already pondered these questions and others, and who also come to very different answers from science than we're used to. People who unmask our Western story of meaninglessness more and more also from the perspective of science as untruthful. Or people who argue convincingly why science cannot be our only guide in our search for meaning, and why not everything is knowable through science. And people who can identify with great precision which aspects of our current story have led to the current convergence of ecological and other crises, or “metacrisis”.

I'm already looking forward to all that musing. In some cases, those musings will take the form of essays, if things really get out of hand. And next summer I'll start experimenting with video and podcasting, so then the musing will take on another dimension as well.






I want to end this post with a short story. Because after all, that's what it is all about in this episode: stories.

The short story that follows is an ancient legend from Central America, a legend attributed to the Aztec or Mayan tradition. It is a beautiful story, and one that also makes it immediately clear how important stories can be in light of the convergence of ecological crises, and in light of the question of what is mine or yours to do in all this.


I hope you enjoy this beautiful old story.


And until the next installment,


All the best to you,

Filip





“According to an old Native American legend, one day there was a big fire in the forest. All the animals fled in terror in all directions, because it was a very violent fire. Suddenly, the jaguar saw a hummingbird pass over his head, but in the opposite direction. The hummingbird flew towards the fire!


Whatever happened, he wouldn't stop. Moments later, the jaguar saw him pass again, this time in the same direction as the jaguar was walking. He could observe this coming and going, until he decided to ask the bird about it, because it seemed very bizarre behavior.


"What are you doing, hummingbird?" he asked.


"I am going to the lake," he answered, "I drink water with my beak and throw it on the fire to extinguish it." The jaguar laughed. 'Are you crazy? Do you really think that you can put out that big fire on your own with your very small beak?'


'No,' said the hummingbird, 'I know I can't. But the forest is my home. It feeds me, it shelters me and my family. I am very grateful for that. And I help the forest grow by pollinating its flowers. I am part of her and the forest is part of me. I know I can't put out the fire, but I must do my part.'


At that moment, the forest spirits, who listened to the hummingbird, were moved by the bird and its devotion to the forest, miraculously they sent a torrential downpour, which put an end to the great fire.


The Native American grandmothers would occasionally tell this story to their grandchildren, then conclude with, "Do you want to attract miracles into your life? Do your part."


“You have no responsibility to save the world or find the solutions to all problems—but to attend to your particular personal corner of the universe. As each person does that, the world saves itself.’"




 




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