This is the burning question, the one that people of good will are asking, and the question most people with whom I work and I myself carry with me daily. You probably do as we all. The cable TV images and online articles bearing witness to what our countries are doing in our name, the cruelty driving official policies and practices, the sufferings being visited upon the vulnerable, makes us feel powerless and spiritually sick.Actually, we are unimaginably powerful -- at least at the grassroots level that is the ground of sustainable change. Our weapon, our trowel, our medicine is story.
You see, we live not only within our own stories; but as well within a greater story: the evolution of human consciousness, unfolding through the epochs we know as history. This evolution swings perpetually through cycles of enlightenment, during which humanity progresses to a higher level, and decline, when it reverts to earlier stages -- much as we personally take two steps forward and one step back in our personal growth. The whole story is the over-riding conflict between old and new realities at play during an epoch. This conflict propels the events of that time and is reflected in our personal stories.
This period in which we find ourselves is a time of regression to the earliest stages of human life, characterized by tribalism, autocracy, and hatred of the feared Other. Just as we personally can experience fragmentation, loss of core values, expressive language, and spiritual orphaning, our collective life is torn by racism, oppression, dislocation, and whole populations crippled by the shame of being the Outsider. Psychically, we have all become refugees.
The impact on the marginalized – as I witnessed among prisoners in maximum security, homeless women, street teens with HIV/AIDS, sick people isolated by their illness, and so many others – is a disconnection from the inner life, soul, home, the hearth where our restorative power is located, and is especially severe.
I work within the tradition of Silk Road storytellers, which laid the foundation for a new multicultural order, and I view my story sanctuaries as archetypal guest houses where travelers rest for the night and share their personal journey tales, laying the foundation for a new culture, a new world.
I have witnessed this transformation through many years of welcoming so many people into my guest houses. They include people grieving the loss of a beloved, survivors and responders of terrorism, families in newly multicultural neighborhoods fraught with conflict, and perhaps most profoundly, given the state of our nation in these times, healing professionals reflecting the political and cultural divide. In every one of these workshops, rooted in mythic understanding, personal and collective healing have occurred at the same time. The fact is that political divisions and cultural hatred dissolve in the face of life’s common experiences – love, death, uncertainty, and hope.
My experience in these darkest of places has proven to me that story, discovered in writing and shared in community, can restore the life force of soul to our suffering world.