We Are a Beautiful, Passionate, Inspiring, Never-Ending Story by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Your life is a beautiful, passionate, inspiring, never-ending story. It began with your ancestors long before your birth and will reverberate through untold future generations. It is infinitely complex, unique, and fascinating. Your story is deeply interconnected with other living and non-living beings. It is one among billions of individual stories that make up the wondrous, awe-inspiring story of our planet. 

Do you see yourself, other humans, all living beings, and Earth Herself in these words? Many of us may struggle to do so. As Janet Rudolph so eloquently noted in her recent post about Moses, we need to re-examine and change our foundational stories away from violence and towards spiritual regeneration. So, how can we create new stories about who we believe ourselves to be and how we respond to the world around us? Ursula Le Guin gives important clues in her book Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. In it she defines story as “a narrative of events (external or psychological) that moves through time or implies the passage of time and that involves change. I define plot as a form of story that uses action as its mode, usually in the form of conflict…(p. 122). “ Le Guin continues to say that this kind of plot “reflects a culture that inflates aggression and competition while cultivating ignorance of other behavioral options… (p. 123).”

Unfortunately, conflict-driven plots are everywhere in novels full of war, dystopia, and crime; in horror, superhero or crime movies; in the language we use (“she battled cancer”), and more. No wonder we may feel constantly embattled and believe ourselves to be “losers” when our lives don’t fit into traditional models of success.

Hera

Of course, it was not always this way everywhere. To see how the classical Greeks turned the worldview of the more peaceful, egalitarian pre-Hellenic Greeks into one of violence and domination, we need look no further than the story of Hera as recounted in Patricia Monaghan’s New Book of Goddesses and Heroines.  Hera was originally “magnificent of form and feature, ruler of the earth and its dwellers” (p. 150)  and without a consort. Then the classical Greeks married Hera to their god Zeus and she became jealous and vengeful, using her spiritual power to exact revenge on the goddesses and women Zeus relentlessly pursued. The classical Greeks bound Hera, like many other pre-classical goddesses, by chaining her to a shallow, hackneyed, conflict-driven plot which has resounded through millennia. Our lives do not need to be the same. 

Again, we can turn to Ursula Le Guin for inspiration on how to get ourselves free. “Conflict is one kind of behavior,” she says. “There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing (p. 123).” Just as Ursula Le Guin creates whole universes out of stories that revolve around responses besides conflict, we, too, can re-create ourselves and our planet by how we live our lives. We do not need to be brilliant storytellers, but be aware of how we may be influenced by plots that are not beneficial, then use all the possibilities open to us to show others how to enact positive change by our own example. 

For guidance on how to live these life stories that will lead us to the future we want, we can begin by looking to the world’s many uplifting stories of how goddesses created our Earth. The Akadian Araru created our stunningly magnificent planet by forming an image of it in Her mind. Atsintma, of the Canadian Athabascans, brought forth Earth’s array of animals by spreading her fireblossom-woven cloth on the land and singing them into being. The Aztec Cipactónal, gave Her body to become the Earth, the heavens, the mountains, caves, grasses, and flowers. The Cherokee Dayunisi created the Earth by bringing up mud from a land beneath the sea. And so many more.

What do these stories tell us? In our new life stories, we can…

Be powerful changemakers who know how to use a vast array of behaviors and responses to create positive effects. Our toolkit is as big as our imagination. Sometimes big effects start with small dollops of mud.

Picture ourselves as interconnected through our common origin in the Earth Herself, one of a planet full of sacred beings rather than as lone adversaries. 

See our lives as part of a larger story beginning with Earth’s creation and know that we need only live our lives well to fulfill our part in it.

Spend our years exploring and enjoying our world, knowing that joy is a mighty tool of creation.

And so much more.

Can changing our lives by rethinking our personal stories really make a positive difference in the world? Just think of the family stories you heard as a child from a parent or grandparent or a  book that opened your mind to possibilities that still resonate with you. Often in women’s circles I have seen women transform in moments in the illumination of being deeply listened to and understood. Their inner story changes, and so do they. When the people of Ireland were moved by news of women’s lives lost to their punitive abortion laws, they changed the narrative of abortion rights to center care and compassion. This not only resulted in new laws, but also created an environment of acceptance of what is needed to ensure everyone’s well being.

I am a story, you are a story, we, and all beings on Earth are stories in a world of perhaps infinite fascinating stories. Freed from an omnipresent plot that glorifies violence and embattles and belittles us, we can better see our own glorious life story as well as envision better stories for ourselves and future generations. It’s time to fire up our imaginations.

Carolyn Lee Boyd is a writer, drummer, and herb and native plant gardener.  Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews, and poetry have been published in a variety of print magazines, internet sites, and book anthologies. She explores goddess-centered spirituality in everyday life and how we can all better live in local and global community. She would love for you to visit her at her website, www.goddessinateapot.com,where you can find her writings and music and some of her free e-books to download.

Photo and Graphic credits:

Universe: Pablo Carlos Budassi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Hera: Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Grandmother: Heinrich Vogeler, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons



Categories: Activism

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13 replies

  1. This is a really interesting and hopeful piece. As a dramatist, I’m so familiar with the idea that ‘drama needs conflict’ but reading this post has given me a glimpse of the actual assault that watching so many TV shows based on this premise has had on me. I think I’ve tried to normalise my response because most shows/drama are based on verbal or physical violence/conflict but actually I’ve been brutalising myself.

    Thanks Carolyn, you’ve opened my eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your comment! Yes, I was always taught in writing classes that all stories need conflict and just went with that in my own fiction writing till I began reading about fiction from non-western cultures that doesn’t follow this structure. Even as I was writing the post I was realizing how internalized the conflict model is and how for so long when I would encounter challenges I would get stressed about having to be in a conflict, when really I should have been thinking “what is the most beneficial response?” I’m glad the post was helpful!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Carolyn, for this excellent piece. You make such an important point–all of us throughout the world are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves and believe. This was one of the more difficult concepts to get across to my students when I taught Religious Studies. Stories are symbols. Their interpretation becomes doctrine. All too often doctrine is seen as something immutable and many are loath to re-think what they consider to be an essential pillar of their faith. Changing the same ole’, same ole’, I’m convinced,, is essential for our survival.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Esther, for this interesting perspective. Yes, stories creating doctrine instead of being opportunities to think about things in another way – that’s what so often happens to the detriment of our society. I can think of so many people who have experienced and caused distress needlessly because something they saw as a sin or morally wrong is really just another way of doing things or living life. Thank you for this insight from your teaching!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, yes, yes, let us change ourselves and the whole world. Let us become changemakers. I’ve respected the classical Greeks for many things, but certainly not for what they did to Hera, a true queen, by “marrying” her to that old rapist Zeus. Those old god-kings were terrible. And so are the new ones, like the Orange T. Rex who is still telling his lies that the 2020 election was stolen. He’s as bad as Zeus ever was, just more modern. And the god-kings all around the world, like in Russia, China, some European states, all over the Middle East. Esther is right: the stories become doctrine, and the doctrine becomes unchangeable.

    Let’s all unite and drive away the god-kings. Put them in Tesla rockets and aim those rockets at Pluto or beyond.

    Bright blessings to you and your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Barbara! I love how you are always able to come up with a vivid vision for what to do! Yes, history does repeat itself and we are seeing the conflict plot happen again all over the world, as you say. I do believe that stretching our minds and offering a vision of a brighter future — telling a really good story — as you so often do in your writing, is a really important way to get past those doctrines and onto better paths as a planet. Thank you and bright blessings to you and your work, also!

      Like

  4. uplifting essay but my question Carolyn revolves around whether most people WANT to change the story…what I see is that most don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an interesting question, but I wonder if it isn’t that most people don’t want to change the story, as much as they don’t realize there are other stories besides those infused with conflict, or they may have a vague sense that there are other stories, but maybe don’t know how to begin to create their lives with other stories. So, I think, no matter how daunting the task may be, we just get started making our own lives with those other stories and making visions of other stories for people to see. And maybe, step by step, things can change.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t believe that most people WANT to change the story not in this capitalistic society that seduces with false benefits – I wish I felt otherwise but this is not what I am seeing:::: I live another story and believe me it is not easy

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is an inspiring, deeply nourishing post, thank you.

    I just posted the link on FB with the first paragraph in the message area and this:
    I wonder at times why my life matters at all or why to continue living…and then I read something like this and I understand that it matters and is worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Iris. I am deeply moved by your comment. I’m so glad you found hope in my post. Yes, I do believe that, despite all the traumas we all go through in life, life does matter and is worth living, every single day. We have a great opportunity living in the troubled times that we are in to make a difference and be there for each other. Blessings!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ahh Carolyn, a post after my own heart. Changing or re-visioning or re-claiming the story. How very powerful and you do it so gracefully.

    “Our toolkit is as big as our imagination. Sometimes big effects start with small dollops of mud.” I love this line. From small dollops of mud come amazing growth.

    I get a feeling from reading this that we are the rainbow bridge that holds the stories and cultivates the transformations.

    And thanks for the shoutout from my Moses blogpost!

    Liked by 2 people

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