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Center for Action and Contemplation
A New Story
A New Story

A Hopeful Story

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A New Story

A Hopeful Story
Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Human beings fall easily into despair, and from the very beginning we invented stories that enabled us to place our lives in a larger setting, that revealed an underlying pattern, and gave us a sense that . . . life had meaning and value. . . . [Story] is not about opting out of this world, but about enabling us to live more intensely within it. —Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth

Nearly two decades ago, Brian McLaren began urging Christians to embrace a more healing, compassionate story by which to live. His words are just as relevant today:

In these dangerous times, our whole planet now needs more than ever a good story to live in and to live by. There are a number of stories competing for the hearts and imaginations of humanity as we emerge together into this new century and millennium: the regressive stories of fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity, or the progressive stories of secular “scientism” or American consumerism, for example. Once taken to the heart of human culture, each of these stories will produce its own kind of world. . . . The story we believe and live in today has a lot to do with the world we create for our children, our grandchildren, and our descendants one hundred thousand years from now (if?). [1]

I have to admit that twenty years ago most of us probably thought a hundred thousand years of human thriving sounded likely, but I’m afraid that it sounds almost fanciful to many of us today. Great and hopeful thinkers like Brian, Joanna Macy, Brian Swimme, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Ilia Delio and others give us the faith, scientific understanding, and courage to continue to do our small part. In one of his more recent books, Brian writes with his friend Gareth Higgins about a “Seventh Story.” It is a cosmic and all-inclusive story which, if believed and lived out, leads to a very different future, one of healing instead of conflict.

Around the margins, another narrative has been taking shape during these most recent moments of . . . history. In this narrative, humans envision learning to live in harmony with one another and with the boundary conditions (or laws) of nature. We imagine seeing all our fellow humans—and all living things—as part of one family of relations, sharing in the same unfolding story or song of creation. We imagine ourselves creating conditions in which peace and well-being are not only possible but normal, and in which inevitable conflicts can be resolved through justice, kindness, wisdom, and love. . . .

As the amazing 13.8 billion-year story of the cosmos continues to unfold, in this little corner of the universe, we hope to tell a story of justice and joy, love and peace, for the benefit of future generations who will be born into the story that there is no [us and] them at all. [2] This is a cosmic and inclusive story that demands healing more than punishment.

[1] Brian D. McLaren, The Story We Find Ourselves in: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian (Jossey-Bass: 2003), xiv.

[2] Brian D. McLaren and Gareth Higgins, The Seventh Story: Us, Them, & the End of Violence (Porch: 2018), 163–164.

Story from Our Community:
My brother connected me to the [Daily] meditations five years ago when my world had fallen apart. By 50 I had experienced great loss, including the deaths of two children. These meditations have helped me make God-sense again in my broken life. Thank you to Fr. Richard and the team for your generous, wise, encouraging and inclusive words. They bring me back again and again to that quiet place in God’s lap, meditating in whatever form. —Liz C.

Image credit: Tree Trunks near Hermitage, Gethsemani (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
We can’t always see the ways trees are in relationship because their complex world of roots lives underground. We, the human family, are also inextricably interconnected.
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