Radical Storytelling For Radical Times
Radical= [latin] Forming the root.
2014 could have been declared as the year of the story. It was the tipping point in our understanding of the power of story in pop culture, as the advertising, entrepreneurship and leadership industries discovered there was a super highway straight into people’s hearts and souls…by getting to people through the most ancient thread of what weaves our humanity into existence: story.
And then a second industry emerged, those who sold the concept that you could dissect the process of creating a story. A flood of books and instructional manuals were created that picked a part and dissected the procedure of building a story. But somewhere in there they hijacked stories, forced them into a form of slavery where they were designed to force you down a path of wanting, desiring, needing, rather than be true to their nature, which is to give something to you.
In the midst of this, mythology is as powerful as ever, and our modern day bards Clarisa Pikola Estes, Michael Mead, Steven Martin Shaw, and Martin Prectel, Jean Houston, and Carolyn Casey are holding down the guideposts of this lineage for our modern culture. But they hold stories in a different way, not as a rollercoaster ride that leads the mind through a process of thinking and believing and desiring, but rather, as a force of nature that courses through them.
The power in a story comes alive in the listener.
In a culture obsessed with consuming, when we come into contact with stories we are given the experience of sitting back and receiving…this powerful role of listening is being undermined, almost discarded. In a culture accepting of this idea that we have no influence or impact, we have nearly forgotten that the only way a story can live: is through the listening.
One of the reasons stories are magic… is because they are a vehicle for the soul to be expressed. And not just the soul of the person telling the story in that moment, but the soul of every person who has ever carried that story before them so that it can still live and breathe and affect our world today. You see…as I see it, stories are living entities.
But there is another kind of wild magic that happens inside of a story…we create a unified field of resonance. Ellen Schneider, founder of POV and Active Voice spoke to this as a way giving a shared experience to an audience. Stephen Spielberg speaks to the thrill of getting a group of strangers to laugh, cry and even all feel fear—together.
Stories are born of creation energy, just like you and I. And in that way, they have the capacity to have a soul, and to influence you, your thinking, your belief systems, your values, and even influence what think is possible.
And my favorite kinds of stories (sorry, I have been known to play favorites) are the myths; the old ones that have been carried through time from mouth to mouth, absent of a named creator. And we can be with these stories in the old ways, as Michael Meade says, as an oracle to explore where we are living in our unconsciousness.
So with that said…when we make a story with only the intention to sell something, when it is built from nothing but form and structure with the intent to manipulate the listener into doing something, we are essentially creating a soul less entity, a clone– something that walks through our life like a zombie. These are dangerous stories. And you need to know them when they are coming for you so you can duck, dive, and take up aikido. One of the most dangerous stories that plagues our time is the story of scarcity. This story of not having enough haunts the way we relate to our loved ones, is threaded to our relationship to time, and lets not even get started about money, food, and resources.
So many within this society are obsessed with parts and has forgotten the whole. There is thinking that we can kill the elephant for its horns, and the for its teeth, and have missed out on the understanding that it is the wholeness that we are most longing for.
The same is true for our stories. We are longing for whole stories, that not only have structure that grabs hold of our attention, but that provides meaning and context for our lives.
We need to be creating trustworthy stories.
The kinds of stories that we can call upon when we don’t know how to live in the moment.
As we approach uncertain times, there is a searching for the anchors of humanity that will hold us.
The trees will die.
The oceans may dry.
The land will burn.
The buildings will fall.
The damns will break.
And yet there is this mysterious thing that has been carried through space and time, that hasn’t required an object made of matter to hold it in order for it to live onward,
and this is our stories.
Some say we need new stories to provide context and guidance for how to survive times we are living in.
But what if the first task as hand is to go hunting and excavating for the missing stories,
the lost stories,
the kidnapped stories that who long to walk among us but require our listening in order to love and live?
The Australians say that in order for the future to be created we must carry forward our stories from the past so that they can live there.
And the Sicilians say that words poke holes in the universe.
Hawaiian’s understand that words have the power to speed up or slow down the planet.
So to learn how to create a story…is no small task.
Because stories are built in the crib of chaos.
You allow for the pieces of the story to fall through space and the structure and form will naturally create itself.
There is a earning to be taught structure,
but a baby is not grown one bone at a time.
Life in the womb of creation begins with the heart.
You need to feel for the heart of your story, for the soul of your story, and it will as naturally as the cells build a body, come into shape and form.
And then you need to listen for your story, with as much attention as you would listen to a young person, not so much as literally to their words, but for what is asking to come through them.
Creativity is the antidote to the paralyzing fear of the unknown and provides an opportunity to practice the skill of being able to create something from nothing. Our relationship to creativity provides a way to develop the muscles needed to thrive in uncertain times: deep listening, trust in the process and your intuition, radical collaboration, ingenuity, generosity of spirit, and willingness to embody and follow the creative impulse.
Once we have created a new story, we need to fill the stories that we tell, and retell, with our medicine, with that which comes through our soul to give. The resonance in which we speak, carries the medicine we have to give to this world, and is carried and delivered through the stories we choose to tell. We speak through the realms when we speak out loud, and we bring the soul of a story, and all that have told it before us, to life.
And what our voice carries…is what we fuel the story with.
Is our voice fueled on fear hopelessness? Is our voice fueled by the meat of animals tortured through big agriculture, sugar made from slave labor? What do we feed our audiences when our voice is threaded with the vibration of scarcity? And therein lies the ultimate challenge: our words won’t be medicine if they aren’t riding on the currency of authenticity.
Speak with fear and you will speak to the fear in others.
Speak from scarcity and you will breed scarcity in others.
Speak from love, and you will wake love in others.
Words are magic.
There is an old story from the Laguna People that Leslie Marmon Silko shares in her book Storyteller, about how the horrors of our time were created.
The essence of the story goes like this: The story is about a group of witches showing off their abilities in the dark arts. While most of the witches showed off their skills using corpses and bones. One witch used her words, and she spun a tale of a time when humans would be filled with fear, and then they would kill what they fear. The story spun a tale of when people lost their connection to all when fear took over. When she was done casting her spell, the rest of the witches told her to take the story back and undo it. She refused.
So now it is up to us.
This is our legacy, and old story carried into our times that we are learning to live with.
But what story will we leave for our future selves?
It seems careless to leave behind a story of destruction.
We were able to create a story of a planet that learned how to love through the hardest of wars? Of humans who remembered how to sing the oceans back to life?
Of the land who welcomed us back and cradled us in her caves when the storms came.
So you see how meaningful it can be to understand the old stories…that provides hints and clues to how we got here… so that as we call out for this new story…we understand what old story is asking to be healed.
Whatever the circumstance, each moment we are given the choice of choosing which story of the world you most want to live within and breathe life into. We can serve the careless stories made from another time, we can feed on the zombie stories, or we generate the joy, love, and courage—we can choose to speak with a disciplined fierceness so that something else happens– a life sustaining story born from generosity is woven into our times and can be carried by generations to come.
Ready to engage your story?