How beautiful can life be? We hardly dare imagine it.
― Charles Eisenstein
I’m taking an eCourse over the next six weeks called the Space Between Stories. It’s being put on by author Charles Eisenstein and will include guest speakers as well as the opportunity to connect and process the materials and ideas put forth with other course participants via online forums. I’m not sure exactly what it will be like, and I don’t really have any expectations going into the experience, but Charles’ writing and verbalization of ideas has resonated with me over the last few years so it feels like an important thing to participate in. The course calls the “space between stories” the time when the old story of who I am, what is real, and how to navigate life has broken down. It is the time when my familiar ways of making meaning are no longer relevant. I don’t know who I am. What had seemed so permanent, reliable, understandable and real is revealed as an illusion.
In The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, Charles makes the case that we are currently stuck in between two stories: the old story of Separation and the new story of Interbeing.
You might already have an inkling of what the old story of Separation is all about. It’s about achieving success in life by doing well in school, getting a well-paying job, contributing to the growth of the economy; basically, it’s about following the rules of society and relies on human advancements to keep everything continually moving forward. It’s about getting more, doing better, and “making things happen.” In Chapter One, Eisenstein writes about his childhood,
Life made sense. If you worked hard you could get good grades, get into a good college, go to grad school or follow some other professional path, and you would be happy. With a few unfortunate exceptions, you would be successful if you obeyed the rules of our society: if you followed the latest medical advice, kept informed by reading the New York Times, got a good education, obeyed the law, made prudent investments, and stayed away from Bad Things like drugs. Sure there were problems, but the scientists and experts were working hard to fix them. Soon a new medical advance, a new law, a new educational technique, would propel the onward improvement of life. My childhood perceptions were part of a narrative I call the Story of the People, in which humanity was destined to create a perfect world through science, reason, and technology: to conquer nature, transcend our animal origins, and engineer a rational society.
The bad news is that the old story that is illustrated in that quote is the one much of the world is actively participating in. And it isn’t working; the earth and multitudes of non-human life (and much of human life, too) have suffered and are still suffering in unfathomable ways because of this belief that humans are above and separate from everything else on the planet. The state of so much of the world is quite dire when we live in this story. Things look bleak from the perspective of separation.
The good news is that there is another story emerging from the ashes of the old. It’s the story Charles refers to as the story of Interbeing, or the story that invites humanity to live in harmony with the other forms of life on the planet, rather than over them. It’s a story about seeing the world as intricately connected, it’s about recognizing that every being has a unique gift to offer to the universe and it’s about understanding that every gift is of equal worth. It’s about feeling alive because of how we are living, and it’s about seeing ourselves in each other and in the wider world. In Chapter Three, Eisenstein writes about the principals of the story of Interbeing:
Here are some of the principles of the new story:
- That my being partakes of your being and that of all beings. This goes beyond interdependency—our very existence is relational.
- That, therefore, what we do to another, we do to ourselves.
- That each of us has a unique and necessary gift to give the world.
- That the purpose of life is to express our gifts.
- That every act is significant and has an effect on the cosmos.
- That we are fundamentally unseparate from each other, from all beings, and from the universe.
- That every person we encounter and every experience we have mirrors something in ourselves.
- That humanity is meant to join fully the tribe of all life on Earth, offering our uniquely human gifts toward the well-being and development of the whole.
- That purpose, consciousness, and intelligence are innate properties of matter and the universe.
I’m interested in living the new story. I don’t know how to go about fully embodying a state of Interbeing yet, and I don’t think Charles claims to either. But I’m excited to interact with others who have the desire to use this space between stories to move into positive change. I’ll probably have more to say on this in six weeks, but in the meantime, pick up the book. It’s well worth the read.