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Evolutionary Spirituality

Story Field Salons

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Here are some writeups of this idea that Tom Atlee has done over the years. When a team comes together to make it happen, this material can be relegated to a sub-page, and this page can be used for organizing the conference.


Story Field Salons - Open Space gatherings of perhaps 50 futurists, social thinkers, and experts in sustainability, collective intelligence, evolutionary dynamics, etc. -- everything that would be needed to create a sustainable, wise, joyful, consciously evolving civilization -- along with 50-250 of society's storytellers -- novelists, movie people, humorists, journalists, historians, futurists, scenario consultants, etc.


THE VISION

People have actually lived certain novels into reality: Edward Abby's THE MONKEYWRENCH GANG has been credited with birthing EarthFirst! as a self-organized movement; federal office building bomber Timothy McVeigh followed instructions in William Pierce's THE TURNER DIARIES; and hundreds of communards have tried to build utopian communities based on B. F. Skinner's WALDEN TWO. So stories may offer a powerful way to invoke change in an entire system, especially if they are "imagineering" stories that provide the necessary motivations and rationales, the role models, the compelling drama, and all the instructions we need to live into them in our everyday lives.

So why not convene a 4-7 day Open Space conference where some of our society's top storytellers -- from novelists to historians, from journalists to movie-makers -- talk with sustainability and evolutionary experts, activists, publishers and each other. They'd leave with inspiration, information and colleagues to support them writing fiction and non-fiction with compelling, realistic images of what a sustainable, self-evolving society could look like -- including, as well, past successes and eye-openers like Curitiba, Brazil http://co-intelligence.org/S-Curitiba.html. Perhaps some sustainablity and evolutionary activists would work with one or more novelists (and movie-makers!) to create popular stories that communities could start living into right away. There's nothing like a compelling role model to get things rolling.


BACKGROUND ON THE VISION

"Story" can be viewed as a natural pattern and form of cognition. Some key ideas on this are summarized briefly on a webpage http://www.co-intelligence.org/I-powerofstory.html. Vision is a form of story, as are news, fiction, advertising, myth, history, movies, TV programs, etc. (Even the "if, then" structure of logic and science is a micro-story, but that is beyond the purpose of this paper.) A story (as contrasted with data and ideas) is powerful partly because we can place ourselves vicariously in it and sense our own reactions and roles, real and potential. Vision is powerful because it pulls us into the creative tension between "what is" and "what could be" -- the creative tension that generates action. There is no substitute for this.

Daniel Quinn's first ISHMAEL book was written (and/or published) as part of a contest for the best environmental novel -- a contest created and financed by Ted Turner. The extent to which Quinn has dominated the world of popular eco-philosophy is a mark of how powerful story -- and the conscious evocation of stories (as through contests) -- can be.

But, in a sense, contests -- with their winners and losers -- are part of the "old paradigm," the dominator culture. In our new culture(s), we don't want one vision, one story. We want a whole thriving, self-organizing ecosystem of stories and visions. In fact, we want something vast and diffuse enough that it can have real impact on the dysfunctional narrative "field" in which we are all living, the dominant "story field" which shapes the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of everyone in our culture.

The power of the existing story field is that it comes from a million different sources -- novelists, academics, scriptwriters, advertising agencies, journalists -- all creating stories, quite independently, all of which are shaped by the shared assumptions and myths (the story field) of progress, growth, and human dominion. No one is needed shape these stories: the field, itself, shapes them and adds them to itself, entrenching its power in our minds and cultures day by day.

The story field of our culture is churned out around the clock by the institutions all around us through millions of complementary, resonating stories. What hope is there for us to compete with that?

The bad news is we can't compete directly. The good news is we don't have to. We have a secret ally: more and more people every day are finding that the dominant stories don't work for them anymore -- that they are, in fact, disturbing. These people are hungry for new stories, for new visions, for new ways of being they can step into and act from, or on behalf of. Their numbers will grow, inevitably, as the industrial story steadily -- and, increasingly, dramatically -- degrades Life. The real question is: Will we be ready for them? We need to generate thousands of stories that make sustainability and new directions vividly real, as real and compelling as all those old stories that just don't work any more. People need stories like an aerial acrobat needs trapezes. The Bible says, "Without vision, the people perish."

So let us imagine now a special conference, attended by three groups:

a) A good selection of the storytellers of our culture - the playwrights, poets, moviemakers, journalists, novelists, performers, talk show hosts, balladeers, artists, dancers, game-makers, dream-weavers, scriptwriters, historians, psychologists, sociologists, seers -- people like Ursula LeGuin, Garrison Keillor, Eric Utne, Daniel Quinn, Steven Spielberg, Marge Piercy, Jean Hegland, Studs Turkel, Jean Houston, Deena Metzger, Toni Morrison, Robert Redford, Norman Lear, Ernest Callenbach, Bill Moyers, Alice Walker, Michael Toms, John Trudell, Theodore Rozak, Susan Griffin, Gary Larson, Donella Meadows, Grace Paley, Barbara Kingsolver, Maxine Hong Kingston, Bill McKibben, Oprah Winfrey, Tony Hillerman... (Story Field Salons Continued)

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