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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Seven Stories: Part One
The Seven Stories: Part One

Stories Matter

Sunday, January 28, 2024

For the next two weeks, the Daily Meditations will be inspired by The Seventh Story, an e-book written by Brian McLaren and Gareth Higgins, which offers a vision of love, reconciliation, and hope. Father Richard describes how stories provide purpose:

It doesn’t matter how old we are; we all need stories to believe in. If there’s no storyline, no integrating images that define who we are or give our lives meaning or direction, we just won’t be happy. I can’t imagine I’m alone in longing for us collectively to embrace a better story, one with the power to change our hearts and minds and enliven our imaginations. [1]

Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions introduced the term “paradigm shift.” A paradigm is a set of beliefs, stories, images, concepts, and structures that govern the way we think about something. Kuhn (1922–1996) held that paradigm change becomes necessary when a previous paradigm becomes so full of holes and patchwork “fixes” that a complete overhaul is necessary. The shift in thinking which might have felt threatening at one time now appears as the only way forward and as a real lifeline. I hope we are at one of these critical junctures again. Might we be willing to adopt a new story, a new set of beliefs, values, and systems that could change (and maybe even save) humanity and our world? [3]

Brian McLaren uses the phrase “framing story” to describe a similar change in paradigms.

[A framing story] gives people direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for their lives…. If it tells us that the purpose of life is for individuals or nations to accumulate an abundance of possessions and to experience the maximum amount of pleasure during the maximum number of minutes of our short lives, then we will have little reason to manage our consumption. If our framing story tells us that we are in life-and-death competition with each other … then we will have little reason to seek reconciliation and collaboration and nonviolent resolutions to our conflicts….

But if our framing story tells us that we are free and responsible creatures in a creation made by a good, wise, and loving God, and that our Creator wants us to pursue virtue, collaboration, peace, and mutual care for one another and all living creatures, and that our lives can have profound meaning … then our society will take a radically different direction, and our world will become a very different place. [4]

Richard explains:

When we believe in a deep way that life is good, God is good, and humanity is good, we do exciting and imaginative things because we are confident that we are part of a storyline that is going somewhere good. As Christians, we have the opportunity to live the story given to us at the very beginning (Genesis 1), that creation is “good,” even “very good,” and that it is our vocation to nurture and grow such goodness wherever we can. [5]

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Stories Are Essential,” Daily Meditations, January 10, 2021.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “A New Framing Story,” Daily Meditations, January 11, 2021.

[3] Brian D. McLaren, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope (New York: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 5, 67.

[4] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2020), 119.

[5] Rohr, “A New Framing Story.”

Image credit and inspiration:  Kevin Erdvig, Untitled (detail), United States, 2018, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

So much depends on the stories we tell. What stories will we choose to pass on?

Story from Our Community:  

I find myself quite alone in a Protestant denomination that is becoming more fundamentalist.… These days, I find myself literally weeping with frustration and helplessness during each service of worship. I find myself “doing mental gymnastics” to silently translate the hymns, scripture readings, and liturgy into inclusive language. When I served as a minister in a community of faith, I was able to use inclusive language but now, as a retired minister, I have no control. It is a desperately lonely place to be. These Daily Meditations assure me that there are others who live in affirming and inclusive ways. My gratitude knows no bounds. I’m sure mine is not a lone voice in this experience, even though sometimes it feels that way. —Jenny S.

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Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.