The Value of a New Story — An Accurate Worldview
The value of a good story has been appreciated ever since our ancestors first sat around a crackling fire on a dark night and, with full stomachs, shared the adventurous tales of a successful hunt… or perhaps shared through story how and where to find a particular medicinal plant. Either story would contribute to the accuracy of a tribe’s worldview, their mental maps of how to best thrive amidst the challenges of life.
On NPR’s Morning Edition, “Shell’s Chief Strategist: Two Scenarios in Oil’s Future,” we are given a glimpse of the value of an accurate world view as we also receive a glimpse of our possible and considered energy futures.
Oil prices reached $117 a barrel this month, triggering speculation about where the world’s energy supply is headed. Jeremy Bentham, head strategist for Shell Oil, which recently released an energy forecast looking to the year 2050, talks…about his company’s outlook for the world energy market….
It is however an inaccurate story, an outdated worldview in which humanity stands apart from and above the rest of the natural world, that has helped create today’s most pressing challenges and crisis. The No Child Left Inside Coalition, inspired by the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, is working to remedy this absence of biognosis, of intimate knowledge of Life’s interconnectivity and relatedness…. Here is their new video, Get’em Outside:
Eco-theologian and historian Thomas Berry brings together these themes, of worldviews and scenario planning in business and of children learning in nature, in these brief excerpts from his essay The New Story, from his book Creative Energy: Bearing Witness for the Earth.
It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story. Our traditional story of the universe sustained us for a long period of time. It shaped our emotional attitudes, provided us with life purposes, and energized action. It consecrated suffering and integrated knowledge. We awoke in the morning and knew where we were. We could answer the questions of our children. We could identify crime, punish transgressors. Everything was taken care of because the story was there. It did not necessarily make people good, nor did it take away the pains and stupidities of life or make for unfailing warmth in human association. It did provide context in which life could function in a meaningful manner.
…A radical reassessment of the human situation is needed, especially concerning those basic values that give to life some satisfactory meaning. We need something that will supply in our times what was supplied formerly by our traditional religious story. If we are to achieve this purpose, we must begin where everything begins in human affairs-with the basic story, our narrative of how things came to be, how they came to be as they are, and how the future can be given some satisfying direction. We need a story that will educate us, a story that will heal, guide, and discipline us. pg. 20-21
…If this fascination, this entrancement, with life is not evoked, the children will not have the psychic energies needed to sustain the sorrows inherent in the human condition. They might never discover their true place in the vast world of time and space. Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives. Children need a story that will bring personal meaning together with the grandeur and meaning of the universe. pg. 32-33
Certainly, if we and our children are to have a future of thrive-ability, of a sufficiency of energy…., we must continue to refine the accuracy of the stories we tell ourselves as to the nature of Our Ground of Being. These stories are, after all, the essence of the power of our arrival. This entrancement and affinity for the natural world, this biophilia, this love of life, of the natural world, is essential to the development of the emotional intelligence required for intelligent scenario planning, in business, politics, and in our personal lives.