Sunday, May 25, 2014

A New Wisdom Story - Crisis, Culture and Opportunity

There is a well-known Chinese wish: "May you live in interesting times." By this they meant a time of crisis, because only in crisis can real change occur and a new story unfold.

We are living today in interesting times. All of the old systems and paradigms seem to be crumbling simultaneously. Anxiety and fear are rampant. But it's precisely because what was familiar is falling apart that there is an opportunity to create a new way of looking at the world--a new story.
In fact, we're already seeing an outline for how this new story may be told. It's the story of an emerging element in our society: a wisdom culture.
This culture is not defined by race, creed, age or gender. What it is defined by are seven key characteristics.
1. Gender equality with regard to leadership roles. This doesn't simply mean that more women are elected to local, state and federal office. It means that the special gifts and talents of each gender are equally respected and valued.
As long as women in power continue to act and respond from a dominant/subordinate mentality, we are still locked in an 8,000- to 10,000-year-old paradigm.
2. Reverence for all life and the Earth that sustains it. A culture that rejects war as "natural" must, consequently, believe life to be worth living. This applies not just to one's own life but to those of others, as well. From here it's a very small step to see the connection between human life and all that makes human life possible. And even more than that, what makes it worth living: clean air, clean water, and a healthy ecosystem that allows plant and animal life to flourish.
3. A sense of the sacred. The more people become aware of the exquisite and intricate connections (what Native Americans call "the web of life") required for humans to exist at all, the more a wisdom culture will feel that awe is the only possible response.
While "sacred" does not necessarily mean religious, it does imply "holy." Holy comes from the same root as wholeness, health, heal and wholesome. To hold something as sacred is to recognize its ability to heal and make whole that which is ill or broken. A wisdom culture recognizes that people need a sacred context if they are to thrive.
4. Care for children and respect for elders. If one of the threads anchoring a spider's web is broken, the web is no longer able to function properly. Children and elders are anchoring threads on either side of the web of life.
When children are abused, neglected, abandoned, forced into slavery or too quickly into adulthood, robbed of joy, imagination or possibility, when elders are abused, neglected, abandoned, disrespected, ignored, laid off or shunted aside, then we are living in a broken web.
A wisdom culture welcomes and nurtures its children without forcing them into a rigid mold, knowing that many and diverse gifts are needed for a society to realize its full potential. A wisdom culture looks to its elders for guidance, valuing their knowledge and experience for the treasures they are.
5. Celebration of diversity. Just as too much inbreeding threatens a bloodline, whether it be animals or humans, so, too, a web woven from only one strand will eventually become so weak that it collapses in on itself. A wisdom culture not only tolerates a variety of opinions, beliefs and ethnicities in its midst, it celebrates them as a source of new strength.
6. Curiosity. A wisdom culture is not afraid of the unknown nor vested in always being right. It recognizes that no one people or system has a lock on the truth and that new understanding can come from many different directions.
7. Creativity and joy. Based on extensive research, archaeologists have concluded that our Paleolithic and Neolithic ancestors spent far less time day-to-day doing what was necessary for survival than we do. And what did they do with all their spare time? It seems they used it for creative, ritual and ceremonial pursuits, including what we "moderns" would call art, music and dance.
This is still true today for indigenous cultures that have not been totally severed from their traditional way of life.
When I spent time with Huichol villagers in central Mexico, I was surrounded by exquisite yarn paintings, intricately beaded jewelry, magnificently embroidered pilgrimage clothes (for both men and women), and the singing of the elders throughout our ceremonial nights.
My Dagara teacher, Malidoma Some, said of his village in Burkina Faso that people were constantly either "preparing for ritual, doing ritual, or recovering from ritual." The traditional way one enters into a Maori village is by asking permission in song and receiving a welcome song in return.
A wisdom culture understands that the soul's need for nourishment is at least as great as the body's need for food. It cherishes and supports its artists, musicians, dancers, poets, storytellers and ritual creators--and recognizes that the impulse to create is hard-wired into our DNA.
So in this time of great upheaval, we are also in a time of great opportunity. In this interesting time we can create a new story. A story that allows us to envision and create new possibilities for ourselves, our families and our communities. A wisdom story.
Copyright 2009--Stories from the Heart
Nancy Binzen is a Certified Storyteller and holds a Doctor of Ministry in Wisdom Studies. She offers in-person workshops and private coaching in story-shaping and ritual; video production for people who want to preserve and pass on a personal legacy; and a variety of story tools, products and services for parents, teachers, healers and self-discovery on her website at []

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