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

The Story of Revolution

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The first two stories, domination and revolution, are a kind of yin and yang. Where one exists the other will inevitably follow.
—Brian McLaren

Gareth Higgins grew up in Northern Ireland, a place haunted by cycles of violence and revenge. His experience shaped a commitment to live out a better story:

Throughout my childhood, nearly 4,000 people were killed and over 40,000 directly physically injured. Countless hundreds of thousands were traumatized or otherwise wounded by a conflict rooted in the domination story but met by the revolution story. I’m not sure that I like the word “revolution” because it’s also been applied to movements for the common good. If we take it literally, it actually means a movement that ends up exactly where it started. It might be better called the revenge story.

Movements that overthrow repressive regimes have not always replaced them with something better. In fact, unless a restorative consciousness is engaged, revolutions run the risk of merely turning the tables, replacing one set of broken relationships with yet more domination, perhaps a slightly less oppressive form of domination, but domination, nonetheless.

Instead of replacing domination with more domination, we need to imagine societies and institutions in which everyone is welcome at the table. The only rule for joining would be to agree not to harm anyone. For that to happen, the table needs to be enlarged, not flipped over, with the widest range of people possible involved in making and setting the table. It’s not my table, nor is it theirs. In the spirit of the Seventh Story of liberation and reconciliation, it’s Love’s table….

These past few years, many of us have felt more concerned than ever about elected politics. It’s felt like we’ve been living in revolutionary times, but really revenge times, times where we pit ourselves against each other and where we believe that the only way to have peace and security in the world is to totally defeat our political opponents. But whether your team or my team was in charge or not, whether they occupy the positions of power in society, there’s only so much that elected politics can do.

Higgins shares his hope for the future:

If you want a better world, tell a better story, even about the possibility of embodying justice without vengeance. If you think that sounds naive, I hear you. But I’m coming from a society where we have enacted significant generational, structural change. We have radically reduced the use of violence and taken some tentative steps toward cooperating with each other rather than just flipping the tables so that the people who used to be oppressed are now the people doing the oppressing. The reason [justice without vengeance] doesn’t sound naive to me is because I’ve seen it work.

Reference: Adapted from Brian McLaren and Gareth Higgins, “Revolution Stories,” Learning How to See, season 5, ep. 3 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2023), podcast. Available as MP3 audio and pdf transcript. For further resources, see The Seventh Story and The Porch Community.

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:  

The CAC’s Daily Meditations are part of my daily spiritual practice. They sustain me as my husband and I, both 76 years old, work towards regenerating our 115 acres of farmland in Minnesota. When I read the meditation from January 16, “Paradox Holds Us” [quoting author Debie Thomas] I was inspired by the idea that even weeds have a valuable role in maintaining the field. Weeds hold soil in place, provide nutrients, and draw water deep into the ground. Weeds might not be part of a productive harvest, but in the larger scheme of things, they also play a sacred role. —Meg N.

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