For so long now we have been collectively sleepwalking further and further into Limbo, never fully alive nor dead, growing progressively numb to the certainty that our time was coming yet doing nothing to change anything.
Now a crisis has come to shake us awake and we stare at our lives with renewed eyes, seeing our predicament as for the first time, wondering how did it ever become our “normal”.
“Normal” has been put on hold, and History may be starting once again
The “Old Story” is dying and the New one has not yet arrived, nor will it do so without our participation.
Yet many of us have been “exiled” from normalcy many times before.
My life, my world, my whole understanding of the Universe, have all collapsed, crushed and burned many times in my life.
Over and over I’ve been thrown into that “in between space” were nothing makes sense anymore.
Had I not gone through that “Space between stories” for years and years, I would have no context for the current pandemic crisis.
That place where everything comes crashing down, all your certainties turned to follies, where you are left naked and vulnerable, wondering how you could have come to this, how could *anyone* have come to this, and does life make any sense anymore?
What is going on? What even is my life? What am *I*? What do I do now???
I thought I was intelligent. They why was everything in pieces? I thought I was loving. Then why was I alone? I thought the world “worked”, at least minimally. I though it would work for me, the way it works for others.
Am I not like others? What is going on???
Charles says this space is where the disintegration of meaning and identity happen.
“The old story of who we are, what is normal, what is possible, what is real, and how to live life falls apart, as we prepare to step into a new story of greater wholeness, love, freedom, and connection.Before that happens though, most of us must pass through a special phase: “the space between stories.” The old answers no longer work, and the new answers haven’t emerged yet. Who am I? Why am I here? How do I navigate life? The ground has shifted beneath us.”Charles Eisenstein
On a personal level, the mainstream story looks like this:
“Go to college, get a career job, get a partner, get a house, start a family.”
On the surface this story sounds innocent enough. Just your average, normal human life.
What happens when this life doesn’t happen, though?
What about all the people this story leaves behind?
What about all the people whose lives are exploited for this story to work, like, say, everyone in the Global South?
What about the people who aren’t “productive”? Or the people with skills that the system doesn’t value?
Or the people who don’t want to go to college?
Or those who spend years addicted, or depressed?
What about the people exploited for the system to work, who have to be paid below-survival wages and cannot therefore afford a house or a family? Who never get a career because below-survival waged jobs NEVER lead to a meaningful career?
Is it possible to create a story that truly includes everyone?
One that stops assuming the “normal” human life has to look like that of a healthy white middle-class German?
And all of this before we even get to the environment, and how this seemingly “innocent” life does not include living in harmony with all of Earth but rather continues its despoiling for profit.
Luckily this is changing
Back when I was going through the worst of my crisis, I felt so lonely. Everyone around me had “functioning lives”, with decent jobs, and partnerships. I was the only one I knew who couldn’t get her life to fall into place.
Things are changing, as more and more people fall through the cracks in a system designed to benefit an increasingly smaller elite.
Today all I have to do is log on Twitter and someone will be making a meme about how broke they are. As my friend C said the other day “No one has had any money since 2005”.
People are growing braver, more willing to admit that the “old story” doesn’t work for them. That no, they don’t have a partner. And actually, they don’t get paid any decent money at work. And no, they cannot afford a house either.
This is what we need. The healing balm of community, as we all bring our failed stories to the light.
As more and more people live lives outside of these “official stories”, new stories will emerge.
And about time. We have been living in stagnation long enough.
So… what do we do?
I don’t know. I can tell you what I’m doing. I’m learning to live with it all.
I learned how to survive inside that place of uncertainty, that “space between stories”. And once I did, I could keep going.
And with time, I am beginning to discern that “new story” that wants to be born, not just for me, but for humanity.
The New Story for Humanity
You shouldn’t listen to me on this, not when Charles Eisenstein exists. But since you’re here, allow me to make justice to his theory.
The world runs on stories we all hold collectively, stories we all believe in. We don’t think of them as stories but simply as “this is how reality works”.
Here are some examples:
- Humans are separate from nature. People are separate from each other. Our mind is separate from our body.
- Human technology is forever trending upwards, improving human life through increasing its control of the natural world.
- Humanity is on a progression, forever ascending upwards, escaping more and more the limitations imposed by the natural world, and soon we will conquer the stars. We started off as primitive barbarians and we will “evolve” to become Gods.
- Human economy “works” because we are all selfish and trying to look out for #1.
- The human body works predictably like a machine, and only “fails” (i.e.: gets sick) when a nasty outsider (i.e.: pathogen) gets in.
All of these are stories, and they are unique to the mainstream culture we live in. Other cultures, past and present, did not have them.
And these are precisely the stories that are breaking down right now. In fact, they have been breaking down for a while, it’s just that the present crisis has made it all clearer.
The “New Story of Interbeing”
Charles also calls this “The New and Ancient Story”, because he sees it as the story humanity held for most of our life on this planet.
This story is difficult to describe in words. It can be better understood as a feeling, guided by intuition.
It’s the sense that everyone and everything is connected. That there is no separation between our inner world and outer world, that “how we do anything is how we do everything”.
It’s the reality weaved together by old myths, where everything that appears in it has a reason and a purpose, where symbolism has a power of its own, and narrative causality is a force to be reckoned with.
It’s the story that says “find what matters, and honour it, every day”.
The end of the Old Stories
Something else Charles says that I find helpful is this. These stories need to be played out fully before humanity can move on.
So we shouldn’t be discouraged if we feel the pull to go back and try to fit into them, or to have any of the familiar promises, such as wealth or status, expertise, security, comfort.
Like any person anywhere who has gone through deep transformation, we need to get tired and bored with our old bullshit. Once we are done, we are ready for transformation.
Humanity is much the same. Not all of us are tired of the candy land promises of Capitalism. There are still people who want to have privileges and comforts reserved for the few, and they are willing to go to any lengths to get them.
Me, I’m bored. I’m exhausted. I cannot understand why anyone would still cling to the hollow promise of a treat that comes at the expense of collective human evolution.
Healing the wound of our unworthiness
Here’s Charles again:
“The world is lost but in this case it’s not so clear what to do. So in this case we try this, we try that, we look for the results, we have to distinguish what is genuine feedback from the world and what we are filtering through our own need to feel important and worthy, this is part of our own healing.”Charles Eisenstein
It’s obvious what humanity needs to do. What is not so clear is how we should go about it.
One thing is true for all of us: we must heal the wound of our unworthiness.
This is the work of our lives, this healing from this core belief that we are fundamentally “flawed”.
Once we heal we may receive guidance on what to do to save the world.
But healing our own wounding is the first step.
And that’s why we practice.
Note: if you want to take your practice deeper, sign up for my free online workshops. I do one about once a week, and you can access them all here.
The next one is this Friday at 6pm UK time.