How to Tell the Story of Our Time

There are stories made for these times,
their design woven from an architecture
designed to hold and educate us
about how to be here now.


Many of these old stories go the same way:
a mysterious person arrives from an unknown place.
This unknown person weaves a story, and casts a spell,
that leads to destruction and chaos.


The news feeds are reporting
that chaos and destruction
are being performed by people outside the community.


These old stories are disturbing.
They never tell
what happens after the spell was cast.


They just point to what is happening now.


As if these old stories
were preparing us
for a time when we would have to learn
how to live among many realities.


When we would have to learn how to live
among many stories
at once.


These old stories did this by not pretending to know how this story would end.


Because what comes next is up to us
and shouldn’t be predicted.


But if ever there was code to unlock this mystery,
and reveal a meta narrative that we can live within,
it might live inside of the starfish,
an animal who knows how to let go of what no longer serves
and regenerate again.


Or perhaps the key to unlocking the code of this story
lives in the seed of fruit trees and flowers,
who require our assistance to remove the broken and dying limbs,
the withered and dying flowers,
so that they have the energy to bloom and fruit again.


These times couldn’t be more mythic:
a virus that fills the hospitals with people who are struggling to breathe,
while the streets fill with banners of George Floyed’s final words: “Please, I can’t breathe.” 


If we were to follow the thread of symbolism emerging,
and look to eastern medicine traditions
our lungs hold grief.


We are in a story that has the thread of grieving woven into it. 


And this story is woven from many strands:
outrage, inequality, oppression, overconsumption, these are just a few of the strands we weave this great story from.


Our storytellers are the ones who have the role to do more than just carry information.


Our storytellers bring CONTEXT and meaning to what is happening.
Aborigial Australians say it in this way:
the stories of the past must be sung into the present so the future can exist.


I say this with the kind of tentativeness that comes with saying there is no 1 story any more, and if someone speaks with authority as if there is, cautionary ears should be listening. 


I say this in the conversation about how do we set up expectations for change?
How do we measure our successes and failures on the road of social justice?
Let’s consider a brief (recent) history of the news and information industry.


Let’s eddy out and talk about what is a story: to over simplify this process, we’ll use the age-old tradition of comparing the human body to the latest technology.
Let’s say that a story is an operating system.
And in this operating system you learn:
values, belief systems, and what you believe is possible.


Television shows are the programming.


And for many years, we had very few gates, and many gatekeepers. 


But in 2007,
the rules of the game changed.
The iPhone arrived, which had a feature that allowed one to connect photos and broadcast imagery, ideas, and information, to social media in real time, making it easy to connect with people you had never met before
and hear the experience of a larger world. 


For the first time in history,
everyone who had access to technology had access to a microphone.


With the creation of social media,
massive amounts of perspectives
and information
was shared.
The gatekeeper and curator had to be self selected.
This has been a blessing
and a curse.


So in the context of media making:
we had an explosive transition in who created the story of our time.


So in the big picture, we have many more of the stories that have been here all along, and the dominant narrative has been identified

and is now out of the closet and seen for what it is:

Not THE story, but merely A story,
playing a role in a bigger story.


I didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know,
but standing beside you in this odd moment. For the majority of human experience we have shared one story
and this experience of having to make sense and meaning of many realities at once is relatively new.


We are living in the middle of a story woven from the thread of transformation.


The etymology of transformation: to change form.
Does the land see the flowers of the future as it burns?
Does the caterpillar know the wings of the future when it dissolves?


The kicker about being in a story you haven’t lived before
is that there is no knowing what the story is about
until it is over.


And while there are many stories and theories about why our economic system is closing down, as storytellers we can say something like: something in our co-created energy field on earth created a shut down of many economic systems.


And even though we pulled out the defibrillator and were just about to bring consumerism back to life, something in our collective field shut down the over-consumerism market again.


Stories aren’t about the facts,
stories are about making meaning. 


“These things never happened, yet they always are.” ~Saloustios, Of Gods and the World.


Ever since I can remember, our collective has been running a climate change narrative that had us declaring change as the enemy, and had us running from the end. 


And yet, 

we need endings.
So we can begin the next chapter. 


And we need to weave beauty into our journey toward these endings
because this is how the soul is fed.
So yes, even when the streets are burning,
Beauty must be called for,
Beauty must be created, sought after, and shared.


Let’s put this request for A NEW STORY to rest. 
Every time I hear those words I hear the call to turn our backs on our history.
A call to cut the roots from where we come from.


But this kind of disconnection leads to a collective amnesia.
A forgetting of how we got here that is disassociated from where we came from.
Let’s write the next chapter.
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Leah Lamb