On storytelling

What if information is the basic ingredient of the universe? This is not a universe of things, but a universe of the “no-thing” of information. And this information is organised by a second invisible element, meaning. (Margaret Wheatley)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (Gospel of St John)

There is a way between voice and presence
where information flows.  (Rumi)

Of all the surprises I could give myself, alluding to one of the New Testament’s most famous verses sits easily on the top ten list. I left the Christian church as a young adult, and have avoided its culture and resisted its influence ever since. Twelve years of Catholic school was quite enough, thank you! It’s not the Christian story itself that I resent, so much as the conceit held for its being “the greatest story ever told.” Such an idea fuels evangelism, which presumes itself the bestower of one all-encompassing Truth. I cannot agree: I think we all find our own truths, in our own ways; learning is about sharing – not providing, not receiving.

I’ve been musing about this blog post on Re-enchanting the Earth, with Martin Shaw’s observations about story. “A story is a spirit-being, not repertoire, allegory, or a form of psychology.”

Story is information. We understand ourselves through story. Living systems – whether a single cell, or the myriad cells and microbes forming the networks of a human body, or a tribe of people living together, or a species-rich ecosystem – all systems use information to be.

A system needs access to itself. It needs to understand who it is, where it is, what it believes, what it knows. These needs are nourished by information. Information is one of the primary conditions that spawns the organisations we see. (M Wheatley)

According to this way of thinking, change occurs when new information disrupts an existing system.

When chaos erupts, it not only disintegrates the current structure, it also creates the conditions for new order to emerge. Change always involves a dark night when everything falls apart. Yet if this period of dissolution is used to create new meaning, then chaos ends and new order emerges…. We create reality through our acts of observation. What we perceive becomes true for us and this version of reality becomes the lens through which we interpret events. (M Wheatley)

This echoes the point made by Viola Cordova when she describes the Native American concept of time:

Many Native American groups portray themselves as active participants in the making of the present…. Since we are participants in a process of motion and change, we know that we can affect the future…. We build the world through our present actions.

We build the world when we meet that story-spirit of information and we choose what to notice, which threads to use in our weaving.

We use voice to shape our story, to make it our own unique gift to the world. “Our voice is part of our own personal ecosystem.” (Shaw)

And we use relationship to share our story, to step into the roles of first teller, then listener, then teller again, and so on. We cannot be one without the other.