I’ve been thinking about stories lately, about the larger story of our society that plays out over and over again, and about the undercurrents of alternative stories that whisper through the static.
At a Hanukkah celebration a few weeks ago, our host stood to give his yearly toast, and he said, “I’m having a hard time celebrating the myth of Hanukkah this year.” He went on to tell the story of Hannah and her seven sons, all slayed in front of her as they refused to denounce their faith to the invading army. Eventually the Jews won, and the story told was one of martyrdom and the birth of Hanukkah, and so we celebrate the victim overcoming the enemy.
And this is where the tiredness came into Harlan’s voice. He spoke of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino. He spoke of the whole of written history with all its beheadings and wars and conquering of one group over another.
“It’s always the same story of victim and martyr. It’s not getting us anywhere. We need a new story, and I don’t know what it is.”
I was quiet as a discussion ensued. His emotion swirled around inside of me as I herd his plea and understood the depth of yearning for change, for peace, for a future that will hold our children safely after we have gone. In the weeks since, that one statement has gone through me over and over as I try to answer it: we need a new story.
As his words resound in my head, others come in to answer. I think of my friends who run Earthwise Farm and Forest, and how Carl said, “Our lives are not a rehearsal. We advocate for the life we want by living it.”
I look at their lives and see another story: one of resilience, of interdependence with their land and community, of activism balanced with the steady building of a home and family and farm. I look at their lives and see how true their words are, how they are living the story they want to bring forth into the world.
I think of Harlan and the weariness in his voice as he said I don’t know what it is.
While I may not have the complete answer, either, I do know that while the world is bigger than any individual, change is not. Sometimes we all feel small, and that is okay. Sometimes we all feel defeated and frustrated, but still it is important to witness. It is important to feel. The only true defeat is in thinking we are too small to matter. You are not too small to matter.
Every beginning, every story, starts out as a seed. Some of us are the seed sowers. Some of us are pollinators. Some of us are the wind and birds that scatter the seeds wildly across the land. Some of us are seed savers that carefully and tenderly carry the story into the next generation.
You do not have to play every part. Only your part. You do not have to be recognized with a Nobel Prize or a plaque or anything at all. Just discover your heart. Discover what makes you feel light and do more of that. Share it. Most of the time you will have no idea how many lives you are touching by simply living in a way that brings you more alive.
This is what brings me alive: touching soil, planting a field of vegetables, growing flowers, feeding others, writing. In my personal story, I’m a seed sower, but in the larger story of the world I think of myself more as a pollinator, helping a new story bear fruit and flower.
Think of pollinators: insects, bees, butterflies, birds. They are so small. And we need them.
Don’t wait until you have more money or a better car or more time. Create the life you want by living it.
That’s the only way a new story will take root.