A Story To Guide Us
We are the result of the stories we tell ourselves.
Storytelling, as any comparative mythologist or anthropologist knows, was and continues to be at the center of every human culture. As populations grew larger and we evolved out of our primal ways of living, this fact about the importance of stories continued to be as true as ever. Like songs, stories are a part of our evolving soul.
Imagine sitting around a campfire. You are relaxed, time is abundant, and you and your family are enjoying summer life under the stars. Then the elder of the group begins to tell his story. Perhaps he is a relative, or the wise old man from across the way; many lines ingrained upon his forehead, each one representing a long road travelled. Immediately, you are gripped by his words, and you listen to his tale and enjoy.
The prospect of a story is inherently captivating. Children need no instruction to learn a deep love of stories, and this love never dies out. People of all ages invigorate themselves with stories. It’s apparent in the way we love movies, novels, and personal anecdotes. It’s why news stories have such an impact on us, and why myths and legends inspire us. All stories have the capacity to change us, for better or worse, and it is this capacity that makes them so valuable. I believe the power of a story to change us is born out of the experience that we are living in a kind of story. Listening to a story is like feeling the shape and texture of what it means to be alive. The arc, progression, culmination, and closure of a story is something we all crave, because it’s something we all must live through.
The ability to create stories might as well be called the ability to direct human life.
It’s a tremendous power. Stories can build…but they can also destroy. Not all storytellers are trying to build people up. This is the important point. When we find ourselves trusting sources that tell us we cannot trust ourselves, or that we are helpless, we should be suspicious that we are dealing with a deception designed to disempower. Some stories are intended to break us down.
My mother, Jeanne Ohm, often talked about the guiding intelligence of the nervous system. In chiropractic it is known that by listening intently, we can bring about deep changes in the body. The nervous system is intelligent and it exists at the border of our perceptions. From this, we can understand the truth of another idea so important for the times we are living through, which is that perception shapes reality.
Meditating on this, I have come to realize that the power of perception to shape reality only arises when perceptions are shared, thereby uniting a greater human intelligence. It’s important to know this, because it explains both our greater potential as a species, as well as the awesome and terrible influence of establishment media in the modern world.
Sadly, the people that direct our media, healthcare, and government are not interested in utilizing the power of collective perception for the betterment of the world. I know this because I and many others have watched how these institutions replace truth and verifiability in science with appeals to their authority. I have observed how they take our sacred trust— originally given to our wise story-tellers and elders who help us form a collective purpose and identity— and use it against us to fashion a collective image of inhibition, shame, and obedience. The result is that we no longer direct our own way forward. Out of this challenging situation arises a strong inner calling to change the stories we live by and to expose the false ones that have deviated us.
Owing to my mom’s passion for music, I grew up loving the song called “Free the People.” And I imagine her now, dancing to this song in the full knowledge that the people will win out.
“Free the people from the fire Pull the boat out of the raging sea Tell the devil he’s a liar Come and save the likes of me”
Humanity needs a second enlightenment—a paradigm shift whereby the lies of history can be seen and corrected, and a new (or perhaps ancient) story can come in to guide us. I believe we catch a glimpse of this story in the wisdom of birth. When we elevate the importance of a mom in pregnancy and labor, we strengthen the family’s ability to self-direct their future. It sounds poetic, but it’s absolutely true. The guiding voice that exists within that sacred and demanding place can become the light for the family moving forward. And in that light we will learn to entrust ourselves to the intelligence of life.
We are the ones who must learn to direct our future amid the challenges ahead, to rise above the fire and calm the raging sea. To fight for empowerment, we must simultaneously search within ourselves for its deeper source. It’s less mysterious than you may think. It’s right there, present and alive, in the whistle of a mom calling her kids in from the backyard before dinner. It’s in her grip on her husband’s hand during their firstborn’s birth. It’s in the inspiration of an instructor freeing students from years of previous schooling. It’s there in the words spoken by a mentor: “I trust you, and I have great expectations because I know you can.”
It’s in the budding freedom of a child who says: Thank you… for letting my freedom grow.
“Free the People” lyrics by Barbara Keith, sung by Delaney and Bonney