Same Old Story
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity”
Charles Dickens certainly knew how to describe the general mood prior to the French Revolution. Many people feel this sentiment applies today… though no-one expects a revolution any time soon.
Because revolutions are messy.
We’ve seen Les Miserables and we know it doesn’t end well. Blood. Confusion. Own goals. Sad songs.
Then there’s the ugliness. Not only does Anne Hathaway die, but she loses her teeth, her hair and any vestiges of self esteem before doing so. And while Anne managed to remain pretty during this process, we suspect reality is less kind.
So we stick with what we’ve got. A pseudo aristocracy of rotten bankers, dull politicians, uninspiring business leaders, who (unlike their 18th century French counterparts) are not even attractive to look at.
No-one’s happy about the way things have turned out. So where do we go from here?
Robert McKee, the Story Guru, teaches blueprints for storytelling. Here’s the scoop – if you want to write a successful story (i.e. one that sells novels or gets turned into a blockbuster movie) you have to write a CLASSIC story.
Apparently it’s in our DNA. We’ve been programmed through millenia to respond to this type of storytelling.
These are the characteristics of a classic story…
1. It’s linear – it has a beginning a middle and an end IN THAT ORDER!!
2. It has a single protagonist so we can identify with the Hero!
3. The protagonist is ACTIVE because we hate identifying with the Victim.
4. Though the protagonist struggles with EXTERNAL forces everything turns out well in the end.
5. There is a clearly identifiable close to the story. In other words, all questions raised by the story are answered and all emotions evoked by the story are satisfied.
Sadly, although we have tried to shoe horn LIFE into doing our bidding, Life is now choosing a different story… the Anti Structure Story.
It’s more like THE NEVER ENDING STORY. These are its characteristics…
1. It’s non linear – everything is in fact happening NOW.
2. There are multiple protagonists – we are all in this together.
3. The protagonists are multi dimensional – we are both hero and villain not either/or. (Or as Caroline Myss would say, let’s not kid ourselves – there’ll be someone out there who’s in therapy because of YOU!)
4. The protagonists struggle with INTERNAL forces – our desires to control, to accumulate and to win. We know they’re not a good idea but we just can’t stop ourselves.
5. The story is open ended – we somehow have to learn to live with open ended questions and unresolved emotions.
And the unresolved emotions aren’t even familiar ones like heartbreak! Let’s face it, heartbreak has been around a long time – way before Romantic fiction, tequila and country and western music got involved with the marketing. Love can hurt, but it’s a familiar pain that we’re used to now.
I’m talking about things like NOT FINISHING… the feeling that we are incomplete and have to get somewhere. I mean seriously, how irritating is this? We’ve been wired to finish, so we can tick things off a ‘to do’ list.
Very posh girls even went to a place called Finishing School! This was the ultimate Access All Areas pass to the High Life. #Winning. If you Instagram Winning it’s usually portrayed as Finishing First, which is of course the Oscar for finishing in general.
But we can’t be finished, we’re a constantly evolving process. Like a waterfall. Try to stop it and it ceases to be a waterfall. It reassembles itself every second.
We’ll never be finished or complete. We’ll never get to the horizon. That’s why we create artificial goals – to keep the illusion that life is linear and logical.
No wonder we haven’t been able to get our head around a new story for the times we live in.
Sure we TALK about the new story, because fighting, competition and winning is so Old Paradigm. Governments and Businesses talk about Collaboration, Integrity, Vision, Service… but these are just WORDS.
Words don’t make a story. Something more profound than vocabulary is at the heart of a good story. Something more real.
And as Jack Nicholson remarked in A Few Good Men… we can’t handle it.
Because Truth can rip through our illusions like a knife through butter.
That’s how it sets us free.
In the classic story the Hero is perfect and he has to fix LIFE which is looking rather like Gotham City. This involves an awful lot of drama, car chases and blowing things up.
In the new story we need to do a 180 – an inner journey. Not in a navel gazing sitting on the couch kind of way – that’s often an excuse for narcissism – just in an honest ‘Oh, there you are’ kind of way. In fact, there you all are, aspects of myself!! The needy, the fabulous, the jealous, the kind, the boring, the brilliant, the fearful, the adventurous, the goddess, the bookworm, the despot, the mystic…
Welcome!! I could certainly use some help. I’ve been trying to do this all by myself. Just me and my carefully contrived, very well edited persona. Sorry… I blame Facebook.
Now let’s take a look at Life…actually it’s not looking so bad now that I’ve pulled back a few projections!
Life is a mystery. We spend so much time trying to control it, to make it logical, to ‘win’, that we miss the whole point of it.
Winning at anything signifies the end of the game and as Sadhguru says ‘you can fit logic into life, but you can’t fit life into logic.’
Life is made of energy. If we want it to be more interesting, we need to stretch our capacity to contain energy – all of it, even the messy stuff.
Instead of developing strategies for things like work-life balance (what a strange concept… it’s all life!) we need to create balance within ourselves.
If we have internal balance, we can live with open-ended questions. And if we live with open-ended questions we can access a different form of intelligence – one that is beyond our intellect (which has pretty much screwed things up so far, because it’s WAY too small to contain the mystery of life.
If we have internal balance, we can live with an anti-structure story (think Monty Python and the Holy Grail!)
We want life to be complex and easy because we like to figure things out and we don’t want to work that hard.
The truth is, it’s simple and difficult…
It’s all about creativity and love.
The revolution… not televised, internalised. Because, in the words of John Lennon…
“We all want to change the world.”
That would be a story even Robert McKee would approve of.
Such wonderful words to read first thing in the morning. Please can you come and live with me and talk and explain such wondrous things about life each day. X