New Stories

By Jim Selman | Bio

David Korten does a great job of showing us how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer—how the ‘system’ is rigged to create more for the’ haves’ and less for the ‘have nots’. It makes sense. We can see it everywhere from the government’s disregard for regulation, to the now inevitable necessity for a ‘bailout’, to the way we measure the health of our society to the ‘either/or’ controversies that rage on while giving us more of what we resist. The saddest aspect of this whole financial meltdown is that we probably won’t learn our lessons. After all, wasn’t all of our current regulatory apparatus created after the 1930s so the Great Depression would never happen again?

David’s proposal—and I could not agree with him more—is that we must create new ‘stories’ that can move us from Empire to Earth Community and have a world that can work for everyone. In Alcoholics Anonymous, the second step is “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. A new story for mankind needs a idea of something beyond our own closed and self-referential worldview, although it need not be a deterministic deity that is pulling our strings based on some arcane dogma invented by the followers and powerbrokers of a particular cult such as Christianity or Islam.

The 12 Steps are a useful and proven structure for ‘recovery’ when one has lost control and the ability to choose. Its spiritual foundation has more to do with fostering humility and helping people to distinguish between their self-centered thinking (ego) and who they are—the possibility of living a sane and sober life and recovering from a ‘hopeless’ condition. The ‘higher power’ concept has more to do with one’s relationship to oneself that to any particular construct of God, which is why the Steps emphasize the need to believe in a higher power “as you understand Him”.

Here is the beginning of a new story.

The world has become so complex that we’ve lost control over what we’re doing. We are being ‘used’ by the systems, practices, technologies and institutions that we created to serve us. Our world has become unmanageable. There are no ‘villains’ per se, but people whose roles exist within this system are creating more of the same—they are blind to any other possibility than the survival of the system they know even though it does not and cannot work indefinitely. They are in denial. So we keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. We are insane.

The only thing that can restore us to sanity is some possibility that is ‘outside our box’ (outside our current paradigm). What we don’t know we don’t know. Our future must be created as an expression of our humanity and ideals and with humility and vulnerability appropriate for anyone who recognizes the fragile nature of our existence. We must surrender to the possibility of a God that could save us, whether we believe it or not and whether God exists or not. The possibility lives in surrendering, not in what we surrender to.

If we can get this far, we need to take responsibility for the past and acknowledge both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ of our collective history and stop trying to justify and explain our point of view. We need to publicly complete the past at a global level, much in the same spirit as what is being undertaken in South Africa following apartheid or in Canada with the aboriginal population. Through all of this, we need to somehow forgive each other and create a new space for communication and trust. We need to acknowledge the fact that we are in this together. No one can get sober alone and the same could be said of whole societies. We are in this together.

How we complete the past will be another story, but once we have completed it, we must then design new practices, not just new policies. We must all begin to work—and I mean hard work—to create new habits for Being alive and being of service to each other and our common enterprise. Then with the Grace of a ‘higher power’ and diligence to take care of what needs to be done, ‘one day at a time’, we might just find ourselves living in a world that works and doesn’t need to be ‘controlled’— a world that works for everyone.


© 2008 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.