Rebuild Shifting Perspective

The Need for New Stories

We under­stand the world through sto­ries. The ones we tell influ­ence how we per­ceive our place in the world. Soci­etal gaze has long been fix­at­ed on our destruc­tive impuls­es and we are in dire need of an alter­na­tive narrative.

“Every gen­er­a­tion throws a hero up the pop charts. Med­i­cine is mag­i­cal and mag­i­cal is art.” — Paul Simon, “The Boy in the Bubble”

Ever since The Sopra­nos ran on HBO in the 1990s, the anti-hero has become the default arche­type in pop­u­lar enter­tai­ment. Yet, as the col­lec­tive con­scious­ness evolves beyond this neg­a­tive trope, depic­tions of pos­i­tive hero­ics can offer new, com­pelling visions of uplift­ing social and emo­tion­al arcs.

Illus­tra­tions for Jules Verne’s “Around the Moon”, Emil-Antoine Bayard, 1870

All forms of sto­ry­telling can help shape our under­stand­ing of the nature of real­i­ty. The sto­ries we tell one anoth­er encap­su­late our val­ues and beliefs. Sto­ries help us make sense of life and steer deci­sion-mak­ing. Cul­tur­al nar­ra­tives cre­ate bonds between those who grow up with them, like a silent agree­ment of how the world functions.

Sto­ry­telling offers a way of con­nect­ing one’s own jour­ney to the expe­ri­ences of oth­ers who have come before and will come after. The clos­er one lives to the nat­ur­al world, the more con­nect­ed that individual’s nar­ra­tive will be to the time­less rhythms of the cos­mos. We believe that liv­ing in greater har­mo­ny with our envi­ron­ments and shar­ing sto­ries with­in our com­mu­ni­ties, can help to strength­en one’s feel­ing of pur­pose in life. While telling sto­ries is nec­es­sary for shap­ing our own per­spec­tives around the mean­ing of our own lives, lis­ten­ing to the sto­ries of oth­ers is vital for gain­ing a deep­er under­stand­ing of our rela­tion­ships with the out­side world. Recon­nect­ing with the wealth of ancient wis­dom and rit­u­als allows us to bet­ter access the essen­tial truths that mod­ern soci­ety may have forgotten.

When you turn on today’s news you see cat­a­stro­phe after cat­a­stro­phe. Rather than ampli­fy that bad news, we believe in the trans­for­ma­tion­al pow­er of sto­ries that gal­va­nize the ener­getic force of pos­i­tive nar­ra­tives. Sto­ries can con­vey heal­ing properties.

In the Far North area of Kalaal­lit Nunaat, Green­land, Inu­it Elder Angaan­gaq Angakko­r­suaq inte­grates sto­ry­telling with the tra­di­tion­al heal­ing prac­tices his fam­i­ly has shared across gen­er­a­tions by way of oral tra­di­tions. This act of trans­fer­ring sto­ry is deeply root­ed in the bonds and wis­dom of a com­mu­ni­ty that has been able to sur­vive one of the harsh­est envi­ron­ments on Earth for thou­sands of years. The spir­i­tu­al task his moth­er impart­ed was to “Melt the ice in the heart of man”.1 Through sem­i­nars, talks, gath­er­ings, tra­di­tion­al sweat lodge cer­e­monies, and shaman­ic heal­ing, Angaan­gaq ­Angakkorsuaq’s teach­ings instruct young and old alike. Angaan­gaq Angakko­r­suaq reveals how sto­ry can tran­scend gen­er­a­tional and geo­graph­ic bound­aries, as well as bridge a sense of sep­a­ra­tion we may feel from our own fam­i­ly of origin.

“A House to Die in”, Snøhetta

“The great­est dis­tance in the exis­tence of Man is not from here to there nor from there to here. Nay, the great­est dis­tance in the exis­tence of Man is from his mind to his heart. Unless he con­quers that dis­tance he can nev­er learn to soar like an eagle and real­ize his own immen­si­ty with­in.” — Angaan­gaq Angakkorsuaq

The sto­ries we tell in the future will no doubt be linked to the sto­ries from our past. Every­thing that hap­pens becomes part of the great sto­ry of our uni­verse. Sto­ries embody the imag­i­na­tion, mem­o­ry, and dreams of all life. But sto­ries can also be path­ways to new modes of think­ing. Sto­ries can cre­ate mod­els of behav­ior to be emu­lat­ed at a mas­sive scale and they can push the enve­lope of our indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive expectations.

Immer­sive media that tell inter­ac­tive sto­ries in three-dimen­sion­al space like mixed real­i­ty, vir­tu­al real­i­ty, or pro­jec­tion-map­ping, can help an audi­ence feel more involved in the sto­ry being told. Reac­tions to these immer­sive media can become incred­i­bly vis­cer­al, and help unlock emo­tions that might oth­er­wise be more dif­fi­cult to access. Immer­sive media can also repli­cate synesthesia—the con­di­tion of asso­ci­at­ing dif­fer­ent sens­es, such as a col­or with a sound—and, in doing so, this form of media can sim­u­late the expe­ri­ence of an altered state of per­cep­tion. Adding new tech­nol­o­gy to this equation—like hap­tic fea­tures or scent and cli­mate inputs—can fur­ther cre­ate entire­ly new sen­so­r­i­al expe­ri­ences. As we set out to find our way through these new fields of cre­ative expres­sion, we should con­tin­u­al­ly return to our roots of sto­ry­telling to guide our intentions.

The sto­ries we need in greater cir­cu­la­tion con­cern time­less tropes of love and adven­ture along with glob­al social jus­tice, envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty, and inno­va­tion through quan­tum inge­nu­ity. Sto­ry­telling con­tin­ues to be our pri­ma­ry vehi­cle for envi­sion­ing futur­is­tic and prob­a­bilis­tic dimen­sions of our ever-chang­ing reality.

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