A dear and very wise friend of mine described a concern about the upcoming New Story Summit, where we are both presenting. She said,
“I have begun to feel some sense that by talking so much about “a New Story” it is taking some of the energy out of just doing it, or even better, being it. Embodying it. Is this gathering at Findhorn just going to be a lot of talk, just another conference where we can parade our insights in front of each other and compete for who gets the recognition? Is this summit an old story trying to be a new story or am I just being cynical? ”
Many of us are indeed wary of yet another conference in which edgy content is rendered harmless by conforming to familiar old-story structures. After all, whatever is said by the presenter, no matter how provoking, is safely contained in his or her 20-minute time slot. The adherence to a schedule, in which no matter what, the next speaker comes on at 11:25, implies that the timetable is more important than anything that might possibly emerge from the speaker’s words. It implies that the schedule can contain the content; that therefore, the content is just in the category of information; as my friend said, talking about something not doing it. The audience is thereby invited to file it away in the category of “something that has relevance for that 20 minutes.” It can be safely contained, like a lesson at school.
Another way to make my friend’s point is to say that we already have enough information. This isn’t the 1970s, when we weren’t aware of the problems. (“Global warming? What’s that? Toxic waste? The Amazon rainforest is shrinking? Wow!”) Nor is this the 1990s when the solutions were just becoming known. Today the situation is that the problems are obvious and the solutions well-developed, but, it seems, we are not implementing them.
Most of the people going to the New Story Summit don’t really need to be made aware of the benefits of regenerative agriculture, nonviolent communication, sociocracy, meditation practice, and whatever else is on the agenda. We may not be skilled in all of them or know their details, but I don’t think the reason we go to most conferences is to add another modality to our toolkit. (If that is what we want, there are trainings for that.) We go in search of something else, neither the problem nor the solution, but a third thing.
That third thing is what addresses our failure to implement the solutions, or, on a personal level, to live into them fully, to trust them more deeply, and to sustain ourselves in a world that thinks we are crazy. At their best, gatherings like the New Story Summit renew the optimism that sustains me in my work. Yes, I might also pick up useful tools and concepts, but the main benefit for me is to be plugged in to the field that such gatherings generate. On my own, I cannot sustain a belief in that which I serve. I lose sight of it amidst the ugliness and despair of the ecocide, ethnocide, injustice, and ambient brutality of the society around me. I need a sangha, a community of people who also serve what we are calling the new story, and whose service tells me that my own service is not in vain.
I’ll comment on some other points in my friend’s letter in a follow-up post.