Saturday, February 9, 2013

This blog, we are a changin'

Artist: Dorothy Stevens
I listen to a young Bob Dylan as I write this post. "Come senators, congressmen,/Please heed the call/... For he who gets hurt is he who has stalled/...For the times they are a changin'."
While these times feel far distant from Dylan's folk anthem of the 1960s but change is no less imperative. I am a far different person from that impressionable grade schooler whose older brother burned his draft card and fought against Vietnam. In the 1960s and '70s we all heard such clarioon calls to action: End this meaningless war! Equal rights for women! Equality among all people, no matter what their race! These were inspiring to an impressionable young girl just reaching adolescence.

Today there is no unifying ideal although the needs for social, political, environmental and economic justice are just as compelling, if not more so. We are living in a state of high anxiety. There is no common vision for a better world? Where are the voices of those fighting violence, discrimination and injustice, or driving change? Young people today may be called to action--or lulled to inaction--in myriad ways, through the echo chamber of Facebook pages where all the voices reflect their images back to each other or through the Twitter feed into the ether. The voices are fragmented and momentary.

Unlike the youth of the '60s who decided to take power into their own hands, those seeking change seem to have ceded their power, the better to deny any responsibility for the dire state of our world.
Occupy Wall Street At Times Square, New York City
World Wide Day Of Protest, October 15, 2011
Climate, food supply, terrorism, gun violence -- these are the crises we face, ever present. Stress, anxiety, poverty, addiction and disease epidemics that can jump the globe as tracked by Twitter: these have led us as a society to paralysis.

Our world is in crisis. The same old ways aren't working any more. Where are new remedies emerging? Who are the people willing to reframe the questions and try out new responses.

Is There a New Story Waiting to Be Told?
 However close new channels for communication and engagement in a world that is so closely interconnected, the power to make a differences seems far-removed. What is the call to action today? How can we answer? Who should we answer to?

In looking at old problems in new ways, can we drive innovation? Pass the Talking Stick seeks to tell our new story. How can we reframe crisis as opportunity? How do we use the science of story to illuminate solutions?

To begin, a few questions:
  • Can we examine what stories we have been telling ourselves to see whether these portray our personal, social and political realities accurately? Are there other stories that are not being heard?
  • Is there evidence that the brain retains information differently in story form than when presented through factual evidence? And if so, how to present statistics accurately yet with impact?
  • People are hungry to learn. How do we teach researchers and technical subject matter experts to share their discoveries in multiple media and social media channels in plain language?
Senators, congressmen, mothers and fathers, we are shaping the world through the stories we tell ourselves, our children and each other.
Pass the Talking Stick
In fact, it is not just storytelling, but story sharing that makes us human; we all have something to say, but without an audience, it is all just babble.

So let's use this forum to tell a new story, not just about what has always been, but about what we can create. Together we can explore and realize a world in common.

The dire story of threat and fear of decline has created a world of anxiety, scarcity and uncertainty. Primitive passions appeal to the override mechanisms in our brain, awakening our default urge to run, freeze or fight.

But we know more than ever before about how our biological default mechanisms work for better and for worse, and we are discovering the tools to use planning, thinking, logic and awareness to shape a better human response.

Now is the time to use our enhanced awareness to evoke a more careful - or cared for - legacy for our children and theirs.

I suggest that if we have a new call to action today, it could be Tell-and-Listen. To tune in to each other through the power of story. What change can we put into action that will lead us to a less reactive, more conscious way of living?

Maybe the folksingers that spawned a generation of protesters was prescient in calling us together to "tune in and turn on." Today, Dylan's words may call us together as, collectively, we begin to shape this new story, buoyed by science.

"Come gather 'round people/Wherever you roam..."

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