We can establish a healthy relationship between us and the rest of the planet. Human ingenuity is practically limitless. We have incredible means of altering the world around us. With accountability, we can begin to make responsible changes to how we live as a society. We must always be working toward creating the future we wish to pass along to the next generation.
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.
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.
“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.
Great things happen when given due time to properly develop. Go slow as necessary. Positive change takes time.
“In life there are no solutions, there are forces in motion; create them and the solutions will follow.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Healing is a slow, delicate process. It can be nourished, but not forced. Same goes for building muscle. Exercise helps existing muscle tissues break down so they can then rebuild more robustly. Just as developing new muscle requires pain and struggle, so too does expanding collective consciousness throughout society.
Change is difficult and uncomfortable. A slow process mitigates that pain. Humans have two cognitive functions: fast and slow. Our fast system is automatic. Intuition and impulse kick into gear to help us avoid situations that feel dangerous or to identify situations that feel beneficial to engage in. Yet, we need a slower, analytical process to figure out the nuances of our next steps. The slow system employs reason. It’s also fact-based and compulsively thoughtful. Going slow takes work. But the benefit of slow thinking is that it checks and balances our often biased and incorrect thinking.2
When we slow down our thinking, we not only keep ourselves safer from error, but we also create ideal conditions for creativity. And when we are still enough to sleep we activate our fundamental mechanism for homeostasis (stable equilibrium). Many traditions incorporate rest. From the siesta to the sabbath, entire value systems are devoted to honoring the importance of stopping work to rest.
Restful practices, like mindfulness and meditation, are useful for a variety of health benefits. Intentionally slowing down physical activity and enabling immersion into the mind, allows the brain’s waves to go slow as well. Brain waves are the result of synchronized electrical activity caused by billions of neurons in our brains communicating en masse. Our brain waves control our state of consciousness and mood. Alpha brainwaves occur in the frequency range of 8 to 13 Hz and become more abundant during mindfulness or meditative states. In more pragmatic terms, alpha waves are also associated with reducing depression and increasing creativity.3
We even learn when we sleep. In our deeper states of Delta and Theta-wave sleep, our mental activity is actually best set for memory.4 We can look to enhance our self-learning by setting oneself up to continue the lessons of the day over lengthy hours of sleep.
So rest the body. Rest the mind. Rest from stress. Focus on what’s most important, and for the moment, take a rest from all the rest.
Times may be tough, but optimism will win the day. Cultivating optimism will help see us through cynicism and the threats of a looming dark age.
Cynicism is easy. Spend five minutes checking the day’s news and you may well conclude that cynicism is the most appropriate response to global instances of corruption, pollution, and cruelty. Anyone who argues that human nature is innately nasty has a plethora of evidence to use in their favor. A defeatist attitude might be tempting, especially when the alternative, optimism, can be frankly exhausting to uphold.
It is extremely tiring to hold high expectations that are repeatedly beaten down. The act of striving for something makes us vulnerable to the possibility of defeat. Yet, there is strength in vulnerability.
Despite the strenuous path required by optimism, only through difficult exertion can worthwhile gains be made. The cynic might appreciate the comfort of often being proven right, but this kind of victory leaves no lasting meaning. Instead, we believe in building a constructive legacy. To this effect, optimism remains the only viable attitude for building a better future.
To do better in life, it is necessary to first believe that improvement is possible. We must have the desire to create the conditions in which joy may flourish, and this circumstance must be driven by an unconditional love for humanity. We may criticize our current states of modern society, but only as a means for challenging ourselves to do better. A misanthrope might make some astute observations, but has no real chance of making actual improvements in the world. Optimists must first accept reality, and then demand more from what is possible. In fact, a rigorous understanding of the more unpleasant realities of the world is required in order to develop an analytical framework that can seek to actually address these issues.
Each phase of history has its own unique context and specificities. Comparisons can often confuse facts. For instance, we don’t need to fool ourselves into believing a blanket statement about how global economic conditions are all around better than they once were. As anthropologist Dr. Jason Hickel pointed out during his discussion with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson titled, “The Neoliberal Optimism Industry”, in November of 2018, “the per capita income gap between the Global North and the Global South has tripled since 1960.”5 While it’s important to be optimistic that unjust conditions can improve with the right mix of activism and policy, it’s crucial we all work to gain a clearer understanding of why certain conditions exist as they do. Most of all, we must not be satisfied with oversimplified conjectures from people at the top of the economic totem that allow self-congratulations for philanthropic efforts. Philanthropy is important, but what’s even more important is rebuilding a global economic system that supplies a fair distribution of wealth throughout all strata of society.
Rather than debate whether or not conditions are better than they once were, we must examine whether conditions are as good as we can possibly make them. That question can form a guiding mantra for any project seeking collective improvement: “Are things as good as they could be? And, more significantly, what do we need to do to ensure that conditions are as beneficial as possible?” These are the questions we believe are essential for crafting a positive meta-paradigm for systemic change. We envision a future in which areas like healthcare and education, are not matters of industry with winners and losers, but rather birthrights in which everyone can participate.
- The Power of Humility
- Healthy Habits
- Environmental Actors
- Economic Priorities
- Lessons Ahead