From the moment of our conception, the stories begin. As cells divide and begin to form what will become our bodies, the vibrations of sound echo inside our tiny chamber as our mother speaks to herself or any other. Over time, we develop the sensory capacity to make distinctions… noticing the vibrations of sounds and the often-rapidly changing chemical signatures that inform us of our mother’s internal state. Before we even leave her womb, we already have defined for us the world that we are going to be born into; and our bodies have begun the process of adaptation to what will become our unique reality.
Storytellers and their stories shape our world… our reality… our living truth. As tiny infants and growing children, we quickly learn to discern the meaning of the sounds and movements around us. Some signal a sense of delight and amusement and others trigger the response for us to run and hide! Always scanning… always paying attention at some level, our bio-senses become what we rely on to navigate through what too often is our personal unknown.
Beyond our stories… on the other side of their telling… are the storytellers. My life… your life… is full of storytellers that move through and weave themselves into and through our daily lives. With authority (i.e. parents and their myriad surrogates; older siblings and bigger children; representatives of whatever god we are told is in charge of our lives, etc.) comes the great leverage to accelerate our willingness to comply… to accept, fully embrace and ultimately own the story as our own…. and to surrender any other inclination to ‘know’ differently. At some point, we forget that we retain the innate capacity to separate the story from both the storyteller and from our unique experience that is our unique truth. We also forget that we can create stories of our own.
As I’ve shared here several times before: the Jesuits knew that were they to have a child until the age of 7, they would own the adult for the rest of their lives. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.
There are those who believe that as a species, human beings are dependent on their stories; that stories are intrinsic to our ability to function. Stories tell us who we are, why we’re here and what life is all about. They tell us how and when to make choices, shape behaviours accordingly and carve out the structure of our ‘reality’ held in place by the continuing story we repeat to ourselves. Some would have us believe that it is our stories that are essential to our ability to function… to recognize and define ourselves… in a world that is shaped by one singular, essential and governing truth: authority equals power and that power lives outside of us. What we need to do is learn to adapt to and accommodate that external power. We defy this requirement at our own peril.
Name it what you will: parents, teachers, the medical system, experts, governments, military, church. The specifics don’t matter anywhere near as much as the underlying foundational truth: there is always an authority higher than your own; and it will always exist outside of you.
As children, we have no capacity to rationalize our choice of Storyteller in our lives. Even though our bodies alert us to that which is in some way an assault to our Being, we are incapable of summoning the physical force or language to press the ‘pause’ button on that story; and stand in a different place as we choose a different story for our unfolding.
Stories form our frameworks for making choices – and those choices become the entry into a reality sustained or denied; a reality applauded or attacked; a reality to which we swear allegiance or one which we seek to deconstruct.
I do not share the view that human beings are creatures of story; that our storie are essential for us to create our reality and that without them, we do not know who to be, how to be and what reality to support. Not for one moment do I hold that as true for myself… or for you.
We are trained to live in the past or the future; to focus on what was or what will be. Doing so demands that we rely on a story inside ourselves to make sense of our world. Were we trained to live in the moment we are in…. to embrace and engage the power of breath in co-existance with the power of the quantum biological device that is the human body… we would rely on the waves of information that wash through the very tissue of our being and ‘inform’ us as we unfold… from one moment to the next. Until we discover how to live that way, our reliance on story (and storytellers) will continue to define our reality.
As children, we have no choice with regard to what storytellers and their stories shape our worlds. But we are no longer children – and the power to shape our worlds in in our own hands.
As children, we are told the stories that will ensure we unfold as those around us desire for us to do so. Stories that embed powerful messages of compliance, co-operation and alignment with the storyteller. Such stories warn us of the consequences of not doing so and make clear the physical, emotional and spiritual pain that will accompany such acts of non-compliance… of rebellion and defiance. Perhaps it never occurs to us to notice that this process has never stopped.
Today, as functional adults, we are still at the mercy of the storytellers in our lives. Perhaps now, instead of the voice of Mom or Dad, we tune into and turn our attention to the voice of the talking head for our chosen newscaster. We believe the stories they tell us about our world, the people in it and the dangers/potentials that take shape within that world. In truth, we are drawn to the voices of the Storyteller that continue to align with the ones we already know so well. When we trust the storyteller, we will believe the story.
Who are the storytellers that you trust? In today’s world, if you are not a scientist trained in virology and immunology… sitting in front of a microscope and staring down at the movement of a vast potential inner world…. you are trusting a storyteller and their story to tell you the ’truth’ that is presenting.
Try to think of a time in your day-to-day unfolding when you are NOT relying on a trusted storyteller to tell you what your truth is… what your reality is… and what your course of action called ‘living’ should be for you, in this moment. Like relying on the weather forecaster to determine if you carry an umbrella, their story of what will be overrides your own senses as you step outside into the bright, warm sun beaming down on you from a clear sky. And even the weatherman gets it wrong.
Personally? I got tired, long ago, of storytellers and their stories. I discovered that staying in the moment I was in…. allowing the waves of information that wafted through my body as I chose to breathe into and allow them to flow… offered me far greater invitation to a more meaningful and expansive life. No longer was I captive to a story… any story! … that would define how I should choose and demand that I act in accordance with that pre-determined choice. Freedom has many points of entry and freeing ourselves of storytellers and their stories is the first step into a gateway to a very different way to shape reality.
In this moment in space/time, our stories are killing us. Our deep and often desperate desire to surrender to a storyteller that we trust, is pressing us into a willingness to divide and turn on each other. Our childlike and essential hunger for a voice of authority – a Primary Storyteller – in our lives that will keep us safe and show us the path to take overrides our desire to discover… to have the freedom to choose… and to carve out a path of our own that brings meaning into our lives.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself:
* Who are the Storytellers you trust? How do they resemble the storytellers of your childhood both in terms of the stories they tell and the quality of their delivery?
* What does it feel like to consider that your Storyteller may be misdirecting you? That the stories they tell are distortions and fabrications with an intention and neither accurate nor real? The implications of fairy tales for adults are profound and dangerous.
* What would your life be like were you to acknowledge the degree to which you rely on storytellers and their stories rather than your own direct experience…. your own willingness/ability to explore… discover… and discover again? What would happen to your days if instead of simply trusting the storyteller and taking ownership of the story, you were to invest your attention and your time in imagining and building your own story?
Our world is heating up, in many ways and on many levels. The invitation that calls to us is to evolve beyond our long-lived habits of mind and body that allow some ‘other’… some storyteller and their story… to define us. The density and intensity of our storyteller-world is pressing us to a point where we will have to choose to either commit to lives shaped by another or commit to discovering how to shape our own lives.
The time and place is this moment in which you now stand. Should you choose to stay in that moment… breathe deeply into the body and allow the device to do what it is designed to do… you may surprise yourself as your storytellers and their inventions, fall away. What remains is a far more awake, alive and present you… with the power to shape your own destiny.