“For people, generally, their story of the universe and the human role in the universe is their primary source of intelligibility and value. The deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.”
–Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth
The New Story Summit was held between September 27th and October 3rd, 2014 at the Findhorn Foundation in northern Scotland. According to the Summit’s website, the event was “…designed to support the emergence of a coherent new story for humanity and to produce practical, collaborative ways to live this new story.” The Summit called together some 350 people from 50 nations (including me), and those were just the ones who came in physical form. Many others joined via live-streaming from all corners of the globe.
The Summit itself was an experiment in new forms. The organization, the finances, and the leadership all reflected a courageous willingness to make the Summit more of a conversation than a conference; more collaboration than control; more of a collective listening than an individual telling, with the aim “to help us accelerate our collective understanding of what the ‘world in waiting’ holds for us.”
Which brings me back around to Thomas Berry’s wise words. We are, I believe, in the midst of a major transition moment in human history. The story we have been living within (industrial capitalism, “limitless” growth, exploitation of people and the land) is not just inadequate for our survival needs—it is, in fact, diametrically opposed to them. How we respond to this sparkling moment of opportunity will determine the course of our collective future.
The writing that follows is a stream of consciousness reflection I assembled shortly after leaving the summit. It is my attempt at a poetic testament to the deep experience I had at Findhorn. Before diving in, it’s important to mention that you can still catch ripples of the New Story Summit if you want: there are free recorded sessions and conversations happening on Facebook and Twitter. Also it’s well worth reading this reflection from Gigi Coyle, a New Story Summit core team member and a beloved mentor and elder of mine.
Indigenous elders from diverse communities invoke the four directions to ground and support the New Story Summit. From left to right: Ousmane Pame (Senegal), Visolela Rosa Namises (Namibia), Karambu Ringera (Keyna), Kalani Souza (Hawaii), Pat McCabe (Diné nation USA). Photo: Hege Sæbjørnsen
Feelings, Reflections, Thoughts, Going Forth from the New Story Summit
A moment on the threshold
Of our times
Of our stories…
In parts and in the whole.
The new story called loudly – like a struck bell finding its resonant tone in the outside world … I came towards it without question. Knowing.
I heard the old stories, old patterns, old habits, old wounds, in me and in the room.
I felt the new, the next, the integrated, the whole story
in the songs, the poems, the movements, the spaces between, the pathways through the gardens, forests, dunes.
I heard it in words too, in glimpses, in flashes, in moments…
I felt in between myself. Between the old and the next. Between the fragmented and the whole. Between the youth and the elders. Between the head and the heart. Between humility and hubris. Between spoken and silent. Between patience and pressure.
What mattered most in me emerged subtly, in the connective tissue rather than the content … it was in the wings, the little things, around the periphery and dead center, living –
In pregnant pauses
In discordant moments
In notes from nature
Dreams and waking
Questions and longings
In the bones, the breakfast, the bar, the barrels, the burning
Candles focalizing space.
I felt so much to say and yet so resistant to forcing any more words.
I felt the want, the need, the yearning to be seen.
I felt the uninitiated behavior, the deep longing, the deep loneliness, in me and around me.
I felt the discomfort of patterns coming to completion … or coming undone…
Individual & collective…
I also felt the willingness to trust truth, to listen longer, to be patient, to know that each of us will have our time…
I felt the initiated behavior like an anchor in the swell.
I felt resilience and remembrance in the indigenous voice, wisdom and ways, as I have so often before…
Not that we need to – or could possibly – go back. But that if we are to go forward, we must
re-member, in order not to re-peat.
Remember that from which we come,
Remember 99% percent of our species heritage – no matter what culture we’re from – was an expression of deep and seamless interrelationship with the whole.
Remember that this body, this brain, these eyes, this heart was made from and for and through connection. Evolved alongside stars and robin and wave. Remember that human beings and human cultures are nature too, and can again embody reciprocally as such.
Remember that I too was colonized,
that I carry the forcible tear from an earthen identity in my ancestral memory,
that hurt people hurt people
that broken cultures break cultures
that separation separates
that refusing to see something does not make it disappear
that un-attended traumas do not go away
that unincorporated aspects of self still hold sway
that nothing in nature goes unused, or exists in a vacuum
that Fallen leaves make soil from which seeds Spring.
That the wheel is turning round, not starting or stopping.
That perhaps healing means making whole.
“Perhaps the idea of newness is part of the old story,” says Sir Charles (E.).
Perhaps we are not meant to charge ahead, but to settle in – fully – to where we are now, and begin gathering the pieces together.
Perhaps the times are indeed urgent… “let’s slow down.”
Perhaps the experience of separation is a necessary part of experiencing the whole?
So I underscore the voice of the fabric, out of which many voices spoke.
I highlight the healing,
Of indigenous peoples
Of peoples of European descent
Of women’s cycles and power
Of masculine and feminine
Of love and sexuality
Of power structures
Of head and of heart.
The presence of these, whether subtle or strong, spoke not of a new story, but of a story in search of integration. A story ready to re-member.
The story is a perhaps only a chapter in a saga,
A line of poem,
A turn of the wheel.
The chapter might be called “Separation.” Or “The Great Loneliness.” Or “The Night the Trickster Pulled the Petal from the Rose.”
The saga is called Life, and Mystery, and Magic, and God…
As I walk on, two questions burn the loudest:
Who’s story is yearning to be renewed?
And what is my part to play?
I believe I was born into the turning of the page…
I believe the paradigm of separation, the perception of disconnection (maybe 10,000 years young) is the story at the threshold.
I believe this story, of which my ancestral legacy is a part, has been outgrown. It is no longer nourishing, no longer meeting our deeper longings, except perhaps in the deep lessons it offers. When the skin grows too tight around us, we must either shed it and expose the vulnerable beauty of our next cloak, or die in the choke of a shell that could not contain us, but from which we were too afraid to depart.
And – I know that old patterns can be difficult to see, much less to break.
Here is where we need each other.
I believe it’s no accident that these were the penitential days in the Jewish faith.
I believe what Elisabet Sahtouris told us: That we have to make the story of a mature humanity as sexy and alluring as the hero’s journey was. And I believe it already is that sexy, that alluring, that provocative, that compelling… Rather than make it that way, we simply have to turn into it. When we do, we will face some of the most compelling questions there are: Who am I? What is the story I am co-creating? What is my authentic part to play?
Pat McCabe said that the “sign of an elder is someone who does not create separation.” Perhaps the story of a mature humanity is asking each of us what it means to be elders as such?
I believe in “Ainee: Nothing ever goes one way.”
If it’s a threshold moment we are in, then I look to the markers of the threshold itself: the first note and the last…
It began with a djierdoo and Australian clapper sticks.
Then a Findhorn elder calling in the center.
Then a Diné woman trained in a Lakota spiritual lineage calling in the north.
An African calling in the south.
An aboriginal calling in the east.
And a Hawaiian calling in the west.
It ended with council and emergent ceremony…
The geese are gifted to the 4 directions.
Then a choice to go where we are called to be:
4 ceremonies led by 4 women, each containing one of the 4 elements.
Not planned, needed:
– Earth vase
– Fire ceremony
– Water pilgrimage
– Pipe ceremony
… and a fifth group called to honor the food, the kitchen, the hearth…
We must each find our way, separately and together. And while it is 5 separate ceremonies, it is at once one collective ceremony. Geese flying together over all, helping one another, sharing leadership, “over and over announcing our place, in the family of things.”
We warned of story’s power to illuminate and also to constrain.
How will we live it forward?
How will we help each other to see?