Stories, Maps, and Journeys
Going to just start right off with the quote that inspired me tonight that Gwynn Raimondi posted to FB tonight (if you haven't, you should check her out - she's awesome!).
Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here. ~Sue Monk Kidd
It summarizes so perfectly what draws me to stories - fairytales, mythology, and legend in particular. The narrative that gives shape to our understanding of who we are - as individuals, as communities, as nations.
Stories don't have to be told the same way every time. Sometimes we need to shift and adapt them to meet the needs of evolving times. I feel strongly that we are in one of those times now. It is very (well, fairly) clear to me how I go about changing my own stories. The ones I tell myself when I am recognizing patterns in myself that I like, or that I don't like and want to change. Those I am slowly learning to change, it takes time.
I look out into the world and I see stories out there, too. Stories shared time and time again, that need to evolve. The communal archetypes are even stronger than for the individual archetypes we struggle with in our personal lives. Changing the minds of many is harder than recognizing it's time to change your own mind. Recent studies have shown that even trying can sometimes cause people to retrench even deeper in the beliefs they hold. Which is why arguing on the internet rarely (if ever) changes either sides' minds...
The story I see playing out right now in so many ways is the archetype of civil and human rights, the fight between the colonizer who assumes manifest destiny, and the colonized, the invaded, those stolen from their homelands and forced overseas as slaves then "released" into Jim Crow, of women who are just objects that can be used and thrown away with no repercussions.
There is a shared arc of oppression. It has played out this way too long. The archetypes are strong because the story has ended the same way, written by the 'winners'. Representation showing diversity is important for this reason. Showing alternative endings. A multiplicity of middles. All the worlds of new beginnings.
How do we tell the stories of #blacklivesmatter, and Standing Rock so that these stories have a fighting chance of ending differently? How do we re/tell the story of America so that we don't have Trump as the end of this experiment?
Am I too idealistic for thinking that the stories we choose to tell, and how we tell them influences the ending of the stories? Maybe. Maybe not - but I might not be patient enough for the alternatives to surface with enough power to shift the dominant narrative. Maybe that's the best I can do? Is *not* be patient and continue to advocate for a plurality of endings. A diversification of the stories.
When stories die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here. Another friend posted something about how there's a way of life dying away in 'middle America'. Multiple articles and analyses are pointing at the culture war about to erupt is not based in race or class, but in urban vs rural (I think it's more complex &, if you will, intersectional than this analysis, but this is how the media is simplifying the message). This is but one of these articles/analyses from Cracked (I know - but it's actually a good article).
The rural folk with the Trump signs in their yards say their way of life is dying, and you smirk and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and they hate it. But I'm telling you, they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying. It's not their imagination. No movie about the future portrays it as being full of traditional families, hunters, and coal mines. Well, except for Hunger Games, and that was depicted as an apocalypse.
I believe it's possible for multiple things to be true. I believe their way of life is dying and there are good and valuable perspectives that are disappearing. And I believe also that entwined in that is *also* a whole lot of horribleness that really does need to die. How do you untangle those stories so something new can arise? And totally fair to ask - how do we untangle the stories of the city? How do we untangle the stories of the planet? How do we untangle the stories of ourselves and let go of what we need to let go of?
Evolution is hard. There's a lot of points of friction. Maybe those points of friction will change the story this time?
In other news, there's a new map out of Japan that corrects for the varying warping that happens when you take a spherical object and flatten it. More about the The AuthaGraph World Map. How we portray the places we live is a part of our stories. What remains unmapped also is a part of our stories. How we treat those we find in far away lands... Someone commented that one of the many things they may have liked in the judging of this map was the fact that Japan is in the center of the world instead of off to the edge. And maybe it was, but then, why should it not be given the creator and the audience? I've always wondered why not have maps where Australia's at the top. I mean, there's no real reason other than apparently north is "up" that the north pole appears at the top of the map. It's just one of many possible interpretations. When one looks at the maps of the USA, county by county who votes for who, there's a lot of land mass that appears to vote for Republicans. And when you break it down by population, less land mass often controls the outcome, because more dense urban locations. How does this distort perception of what is "right?" I like looking at different ways to literally map information - the insights are endless.
Maps, like stories, tell us where we've been, and where we can go. Sometimes we're creating the map for ourselves as we try to create new stories for ourselves -- a call to adventure, a journey. Sometimes it's trying to find a nearly forgotten path that once we knew well. As we go along our journeys, map or no map, distorted or true, as Kurt Vonnegut said,
At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind.
Read the diverse stories. Raise the diverse voices. Create kind alternate endings that honor the best of what we can be. We can no longer afford to excuse the worst. We must learn together to evolve and change our collective stories.
With love and curiosity,