Over the summer I’ve actively tried to avoid doing what I’ve been doing for the past couple of decades – craft stories, design and produce them and tell them to an intended audience. I’ve found that I tend to absorb myself in my own projects to quite an extent, and in turn have found it difficult to find the time to take part of other stories, however interesting, timely or urgent they may be.
This summer I’ve put almost everything on the shelves and concentrated on not being the producer but rather the consumer. I will admit, it has been a bit of an alarming experience.
The prevailing narratives – large and small – are a constant worry on the mind. If it’s not ISIS and terrorism, it’s #BLM and shootings, or failing integration projects, nationwide bankruptcies, a consistently widening gap in income and wealth distribution, an ecology and a climate on the verge of upheaval… We are constantly, unendingly, bombarded with apocalyptic messages, which in an unrelenting battle for clicks get blown up and scandalized into every extreme possible.
I know, this is not news to anyone who has access to even the most feeble of news sources. We all experience this, daily, and handle it in different ways – some get worried, some get angry, many have developed a highly refined sense of indifference, a few take what action they deem appropriate and necessary.
But I have an increasing feeling – perhaps even conviction – that we as storytellers have a great responsibility as a part of the larger picture. I believe it’s time for us as storytellers to evolve – or rather, evolve our thinking. I read an article that the voices of the world are dying, as large parts of biological ecosystems, previously teeming with life, are becoming increasingly monotone, if not outright silenced. And the voices that are left in the world are either screaming in agony or busy greasing the wheels of hundreds of years of enterprise – be it in the form of progress, of globalization, of gadgetry, of startups or something similar.
The emptiness at hand is something we need to address. We need to fill it with stories – stories that point to and lead the way to a time and place where the old voices are welcomed back. Yes, this is a future where there is sustainability in the world. Yes, it’s a world less hungry for what passes as ”success” today, less focused on monetary gain. Yes, it’s a future where what counts as a ”good life” has been re-imagined.
As events become stories, these stories eventually turn into legend, the legends become myths, and in time, ingrained truths, taken for granted. But we need to start telling these stories in the first place, for the chain to remain unbroken. The canvas we’re all painting on is the fate of humanity. So the questions I’m pondering now are – what stories do we tell? How do we make them convey hope, how do we turn them into something that guides the way to an imagined future where we stand a chance? Is it even possible?
10 thoughts on “The Great Narrative”
Excellent post Simon, you’ve really encapsulated what we as storytellers need to do faced with this headlong rush to the future. There isn’t an app for everything; and the themes you list at the end are ones for which impactful and engaging stories are still lacking.
Thanks Krishan. Let’s strive to tell the right stories in the right way.