The world as we know it is built on a story. To be a change agent is, first to disrupt the existing story of the world, and second, to tell a new story of the world so that those entering the space between stories have somewhere to go.
-Charles Eisenstein- ‘The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’
Eisenstein speaks about ‘disrupting the existing story’ as an effective way to detach from the *old story and help create the new.
He points out that methods of trying to convert people to a new story won’t work if based on the old way of thinking. You can’t convince people your story is the ‘right’ one, because you then imply that theirs is ‘wrong’, and this will threaten and provoke people to dig in more deeply to their own viewpoint. Anyway, everyone uses their own logic to argue their point.
Also, you certainly can’t force people to change their beliefs through guilt-tripping them, that would only create resistance.
So how does one disrupt the old story? One way is walking out of it into the space between. If I’ve been obediently going to work everyday despite dissatisfaction, and because of social and financial pressures, then stopping disrupts the story that ‘in order to survive, we all have to do work we don’t like’. Or the ‘economy needs to be kept running’, etc. Or ‘if I don’t work, I’m not a valid member of society’.
Living in the place in between stories is a disruption personally but also in a broader sense socially. The answer to ‘what do you do’, is not readily explainable to people still functioning in the old paradigm. Lately I’ve been saying,’I’m, 64, I am in a transition between life phases and professions, and to tell you the truth, I am just resting and waiting to see what is next’.
Eisenstein argues that:
the best way to disrupt the story of separation is to give someone the experience of non-separation. An act of generosity, forgiveness, attention, truth or unconditional acceptance offers a counter example to the world of separation.
I think that alot of the new art forms (or unforms) demonstrate these qualities. Flash mobbing is generous and humorous and disrupts taking one’s surroundings and daily routine for granted.
Flash mob performances catch an audience unawares and before they can mobilise defences, the music goes straight to their souls.
And attention; the attention I was able to give to people with dementia and their families when I worked as a volunteer activity director in a nursing home, was disruptive as well. It challenged many negative beliefs about what people with Alzheimers were capable of or not. Attention is a powerful tool for healing and change, and it went hand in hand with unconditional acceptance.
Forgiveness is harder, it means letting go of feeling wronged. It means softening and giving up one’s ego position, it means admitting I’m also wrong. And it does disrupt all the old stories of unworthiness, guilt, shame, anger, separation.
Personally, my present activism seems to be to give gifts where I used to charge. It isn’t easy moving into a gift economy mode after a lifetime of being in a professional one. In the past when I have given work free of charge, there were always hooks in it, it was never truly free. I wanted something back in the place of the money- gratitude, recognition, more work, etc. So I was still functioning from a business paradigm. And eventually I stopped giving my work and time away because, ‘I really can’t afford to’, ‘it is never appreciated’, ‘you get taken advantage of’,’the universe doesn’t work that way’ etc.
But over the years there arrives some kind of tipping point, a lot of us are experiencing now. Being in the place in between has certainly helped this process. By completely disengaging from my professional work and identity, I’ve been free to function closer to my nature, which enjoys giving purely for the satisfaction of seeing people being made happy. And it arises from the conviction that there is enough after all and that I will be provided for.
Actually, the more I give the richer I feel. This is such a cliché, I know, I can’t believe I said it. But when entering a disruptive activity completely, the experience can be transformative.
This article on Random acts of Generosity goes a step further in linking gift with art, and exploring the shadow side of gift giving.
*In his book, ‘The More beautiful world our hearts know is possible’, Eisenstein speaks of the ‘old’story as the paradigm we are currently enmeshed in, it is one of separation, an indifferent or hostile universe, everyone out for himself, money as the bottom line, etc.
The new story wanting to be born is one of connection, to one’s neighbourhood, to nature, to the cosmos. It is one which naturally fosters service,community, caring, and wholeness.