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.
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>, via Wikimedia Commons
Hera: Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Grandmother: Heinrich Vogeler, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons