Time Is up on the Story We Are Currently Living In.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”
Charles Dickens certainly knew how to describe the general mood prior to the French Revolution. Many people feel this sentiment applies today, though no one expects a revolution any time soon, because revolutions are messy.
We’ve seen Les Miserables and we know it doesn’t end well. Blood. Confusion. Own goals. Sad songs.
So we stick with what we’ve got — a pseudo aristocracy of rotten bankers, dull politicians and uninspiring business leaders who, unlike their 18th-century French counterparts, are not even attractive to look at.
There’s no fighting in the streets, yet we feel uneasy, because we know that time is up on the story we are currently living in. Foolishness has finally eclipsed wisdom. Incredulity has trumped our beliefs.
Robert McKee, the Story Guru, says there are two types of story, the Classic story and the Anti-Structure story. The Classic story is more familiar. These are its characteristics:
1. It’s linear — it has a beginning, a middle and an end, in that order.
2. It has a single protagonist that we can identify with (the Hero) who pursues a goal.
3. The protagonist fights with the external world (situations and/or people who get in the way).
4. There is a clearly identifiable end of the story in which the Hero achieves the goal, all questions are answered and all emotions are satisfied.
We love the simplicity of the Classic story. But life has now become more complex. It’s starting to resemble the Anti-Structure story. These are its characteristics:
1. It’s non-linear — everything exists as infinite possibility in every moment. New technology means that life can turn on a dime.
2. There are multiple protagonists. Globalization means we are all in this together. Creative collaboration is the name of the game.
3. The protagonists struggle with internal rather than external forces (our old survival desires to control, manipulate, accumulate and win).
4. The story is open-ended. Questions aren’t always unanswered, emotions are often unresolved.
Living with unresolved emotions is difficult for us because we like finishing things. We hate the feeling of incomplete, of not knowing what’s going to happen next.
Collaboration is challenging for us, because we prefer to be special. We were raised on stories of being the best and #winning.
Governments and businesses often talk about things like collaboration, integrity and service, but often these are just words. Words don’t make a story. Something more profound than vocabulary is at the heart of a good story. Something more real.
And as Jack Nicholson remarked in A Few Good Men, we can’t handle it. Because truth can rip through our illusions like a knife through butter.
That’s how it sets us free.
To date, we’ve chosen to live in a bad story that feels familiar (Governments and corporations are crooks, but things could be worse), or a simple story that doesn’t inspire us (Work hard, don’t rock the boat, get there in the end).
We could trust in our infinite capacity to create a much better story.
If we learn to live with open-ended questions, without rushing to the familiar comfort of a quick answer, we could access a different form of intelligence — the genius-level creativity that is beyond our intellect.
If we become more familiar with the feeling of being incomplete, without rushing to distract ourselves with our addiction of choice, we could access the unknown, and allow ourselves to be filled with the kind of love experienced by the mystics.
The revolution doesn’t have to involve bloodshed and barricades. We don’t have to figure out a way to defeat the status quo, we could kill them more effectively by choosing to buy less and love more, fear less and create more, compete less and collaborate more.
The revolution of the future won’t be televised, but internalized.
The story of the future could be the never-ending story (if it’s a truly sustainable one).