You are nothing more and nothing less than a story.
When I ask you to tell me who you are, you’ll start with your names, surnames, nicknames, your occupation and education, family background, nationality … you’ll borrow from wider stories to construct the small story of you.
You might feel proud of your nation, but ashamed of your family. You might feel confident in your hobbies, but constrained at your job. Or vice versa.
Your story might be a dry list of facts or a mesmerizing poetic river of emotions and magic. The more you repeat that story to yourself and others, the more you’ll identify with it. To change yourself all you have to do is to change the story you’re telling yourself. Individually and collectively.
Whole nations change that way. The whole world, actually.
If one person dreams alone, it remains a dream.
If many start dreaming together it is the beginning of a new reality.
– Dom Helder Pessoa Camara
I live in Slovenia; I was born in (former) Yugoslavia. When I think of what had triggered the change from communism to capitalism in the 90’s I come back to the story:
Some influential men started yelling around and convincing people that their new story was better than the one we’ve been repeating to ourselves for decades. After a while people started believing them, and now, two decades later, they identify with the new political entities they “belong” to: Slovenia and EU.
However, in the heads of many of us bonds to Balkan, to Yugoslavia remain strong. There are just too many stories that we share …
People don’t understand their reality until it is expressed in a story. That’s the way our minds function. Let me describe this with a story about the reality of modern economy, a simple image that everyone can relate to and understand:
There was a young farmer. He was just about to put cow dung on his field of maze. It’s hard to say why he did what he did next, but that is what changed the future of humanity. He threw a lump of cow dung into the air with his pitchfork and to his amazement more cow dung fell down than what he’d thrown!
He did it again … and again … more cow dong kept falling down. In a couple of months he ended up with two piles of cow dung!
His neighbors saw this and started doing the same. After a while only a tiny part of cow dung found its way to the fields to fertilize the soil, as all farmers in the world became obsessed with throwing cow dung into the air. Cow dung became more important than yields, food, joy.
Our economy is just a lot of futile shit flying through the air, and more and more shit is being created this way. By some estimations 98-99% of all the world’s financial capital is locked up in speculative, money inflating schemes. What the concrete industry, farming, real-estate, transport etc. etc. manages with is the remaining 1-2%.
Money is shit. It needs to be “composted” and fed back to the real economy. Thus it can foster the mentality of enoughness, of sufficiency.
The question we should ask ourselves is not what would happen if 98% of money, that is currently uselessly “flying through the air”, suddenly landed and released for the use of real economy.
The question is what defines us, what we really need, what makes us human, what makes us joyous, what we deeply value and cherish – in other words: what is our story. Then only will we be competent to use the money to feed what really matters.
If we don’t have such a genuine story which connects us with the real universe and who we really are as individuals and communities, releasing the money will only feed the current story’s latent layers of power-mongering, destruction and misery.
As someone who has spent the last decade advising the entertainment industry on how best to extend big movie and videogame properties across an array of strange new media platforms, I’ve had to think about story from any number of perspectives. What I’m coming to understand is this: Story is more powerful than any weapon. More than warriors, storytellers have influenced the way we’ve evolved as a race.”
Jeff Gomez, Tribeca Film Festival, May 2011
Today, it is not us, the people that define the story, it is the economical, political and media theater, where the global game of Monopoly, played by a small bunch of major players, has become such a blunt war of money-grabbing that it now threatens everything else alive. Who could blame them? They can’t step out of the power struggle, the story of possessiveness and greed, of accumulation of wealth no matter what, of being more cunning than all other outrageously powerful players.
Have you ever played Monopoly and got carried away? Especially when you were winning! You didn’t care about your friend’s misery (they took the game just as seriously as you did), all you cared about was hoarding and amassing … until you extracted the last penny from your fellow players.
When you enter a story, it becomes your world, your reality, your master. You’re not free anymore.
To free yourself you don’t need armed forces and revolutions. You need a darn good story. Revolution is no help if you have no story of your own to replace the old story that you rebelled against. You will end up enchanted by expert storytellers, be it grandmother or preacher style, or Hollywood or CNN style. Stories are the most powerful weapons.
Today the identities of families, communities and nations are diluted or dissipated because they have no story of their own. Their traditions were canceled by appeal to modernization. Many indigenous people preserve their ancient identity on a side track, as folklore, youth is embarrassed of their tribal, mythical stories (fairytales?), they are easily enchanted by glossy smart phones and metropolitan trumpery. Bring any child on Broadway and observe how the soul’s light disappears from their eyes, replaced by reflections of shiny billboards.
Do you want a new society?
Then turn of your computer, your TV, stop reading newspapers and even books. Go to your grandmother, your elders, sit down and listen. Ask them to tell you a story or two. Or twenty. Turn to your children and tell them those stories. Then ask them to tell you stories of their own, stories of a future they dream about. In the silence between words you might get a glimpse of who you really are.
It is possible to change our world. A different world is already coming to existence. On quiet days I can hear this new world breathing.
There is no me without us. Relationships define us as biological ans spiritual beings. It is about stories, again. Intimacy is about allowing a stranger’s story into your story and, conversely, entrusting intimately your story to the stranger. That builds the bond that feeds our heart and soul. That creates community.
If stories only succeed when we consent to suspend disbelief, relationships require of us something similar: the ability to let go of our own worldview long enough to be intrigued and moved by someone else’s.
You’ve read and heard and watched, oh, so many stories in your life, I am sure of that. Some had just as promising titles as this one, but they left you disappointed. Others seemed inconspicuous at first, but they transformed your entire life.
This little article is definitely not the best story ever told. It’s merely a teaser, written in a hope that it might trigger powerful stories to emerge from your hearts – both individually and collectively.
“The best story ever told” is your story! It is the story you need to tell your dearmost, and they to you. It is the story you need to tell yourself. That story is you. That’s why it is the most important story ever told.