Climate Change and Resistance Through Storytelling

800px-Holzkohlegewinnung_im_Regenwald

So the IPCC released a sobering report today. Basically, climate change is about to seriously fuck our shit up.

I think we all knew that, (unless you’re a climate change skeptic) but seeing the cold hard numbers and specifically how things are going to eventually break down is a much different animal than just imagining it in our heads.

How did things get this bad?

Why did we let things get this bad?

I think Terence McKenna sums it up pretty well:

I’ve wanted to post this clip in the past, but I’ve had mixed feelings about it because I find his audience really annoying. They strike me as being far too quick to clap and holler.

But otherwise, I think he’s right on the money.

I think the real crisis is, to put it in mythological terms, that we have fallen from the Garden of Eden.  We’ve lost the intimate connection that our ancestors once had with the planet. We no longer act in accordance with its rhythms.  And we’ve stopped talking to the spirits.

As long as we keep looking at the earth like it’s one giant supermarket where everything is free for the taking, free for us to exploit however we wish, we’re going to be facing this same problem again and again. Actually if we manage to stave off the devastation to the point where it’s something we have to manage again, we will be extremely lucky.

I think a key solution is to start telling new stories.

Stories and myths are the symbol sets through which we perceive and interpret the world.  The Book of Exodus, the American Dream, the Big Bang, it all comes down to a story.

“First there was this, and then this happened, and this happened, and that’s how we got to where we are today.” 

or

“If you do this and this and that, and then go here, and then do that, you’ll get result X.”

But you can leave details out of a story.  You can leave out certain characters, bits of dialogue, important scenes.  If you edit a story enough, you change the way it behaves and the way your audience interprets its message.

Our culture tells us stories every day through various forms of media. And every story comes from a particular world view and contains a message for the audience, whether the storyteller is conscious of it or not.  Some of the stories our culture tells us are good stories. Some of them are shit. A lot of them are shit, I’d say, and the most insidious of them come from the advertising industry and the political pulpit.

Hollywood is a notch better (just a notch) because with all the shit that comes out of there, we sometimes get a truly groundbreaking film, like The Matrix.

But I think we’re too reliant on these various institutions to provide us with culture-defining stories.  That’s why it’s important to start telling each other our own stories, so that we can start to de-program ourselves and rely more heavily on our own experiences.

In spite of the loss of our connection to the planet, I believe a part of us is still plugged in there: the unconscious mind.  I think we gotta dive into it.  I think we gotta start writing down our dreams and remembering them, looking for clues.  We gotta create new myths, for ourselves. For our time.  Myths that include the planet as a main character, not just a “resource.”

This is going to sound crazy (I’m being sarcastic, but it does occur to me that it actually will sound crazy to some) but I think the earth itself may have some input on what’s happening to it.

We really need to start listening to it.

And we may need to prepare ourselves for worse news than what we got today.

The Story So Far, Part 1: The Convert

Daryl @ Occupy

so 
this is how
I became
the Mad Griot

first

a griot
(silent “t”
so it sounds
like “trio”)
is a storyteller
and I’ve been that
since I was very small

the “mad” part
that part…

well…

bear with me

When I was 18, I read the New Testament, from beginning to end.  I became a hardcore Christian almost immediately afterwards.

I started going to church every week.  I joined the youth group and the church band. I read the Bible every day.  I threw out all my rap CDs, because I only wanted to listen to Christian music.

I prayed a lot.  I jerked off a lot too, so I never had to worry about running out of things to ask forgiveness for.

Didn’t date much.  Some of that had to do with my Christian code of ethics. Most of it had to do with being terrible with women.

Things changed once I went to theatre school at NYU.  Except for the being-terrible-with-women part.  And the jerking off.  I kept right on with that.

I tried finding on-campus Christian groups to be a part of, but I didn’t have much luck.  The most promising faith community I found ended up being a cult.  But while I was there, I did end up meeting the woman who would later become my girlfriend and then later become my ex-girlfriend.  Which just goes to show you that you can find love in the craziest places.

By my junior year, my closest friends weren’t people of faith.  They were mostly theatre folk, and mostly non-Christian. And according to my beliefs, most of these people were going to hell.

This was a hard pill to swallow.  I didn’t see how I’d be able to enjoy living in Paradise knowing that the people I loved were going to be impaled on flaming pitchforks for all eternity.

The spring of 2001, I did a study abroad program in London.  One night, I was alone in my dorm room.  I decided to settle things with God then and there.

“God,” I said.  “I’ve been taught that the Bible is your Word, but I’ve heard that the Koran is your Word, as well as many other holy books.  How can I know what is truly your Word and what isn’t?”

I waited.

“Father, I want to serve you,” I said.  “I don’t always do a good job of it, but I try.  But right now, I need something from you if you want me to keep serving you.  I need you to send me a sign.  I want a burning bush…like the one Moses got.  Or an angel.  Or just your Voice telling me what’s true and what isn’t.”

I waited.

“It’s important that you talk to me, God, because there are people in my life that I care about.  And according to the Bible, they’re going to hell because they don’t believe in you.  To be honest, God, it doesn’t matter to me what people believe.  Just as long as they’re good people.  And I think maybe you feel the same way.

“Actually. if I’m really being honest, I’m not sure you’re even out there.  I could be praying to absolutely no one. So show me a burning bush or some other sign.  Because if you don’t give me a sign, I’ll take that as a sign that you’re not real.”

I sat in silence for about 20 minutes, waiting for that burning bush. I suppose it was a weird expectation because there weren’t actually any bushes in my room to begin with. But that seemed like a small obstacle for someone as powerful as God.  Besides, I wasn’t committed to it being a burning bush.  I would have been fine with a burning chester drawer or a burning bookshelf or a burning toilet seat.  A burning anything really.  Just so long as it was burning.

Nothing burned, so I got up and left the room.

That weekend, I went to a pub with some friends.  We met a friendly American businessman who bought us all two rounds of Red Bull and vodkas. I followed that up with a Long Island iced tea and a beer.  The beer was the only thing I drank that night that I’d heard of before.

It was a night of two firsts.  First time I got drunk and my first night without God since my conversion.

I woke up the next morning in agony.  Body and soul.

What I didn’t know at the time was that my prayer had been answered. The match had been struck, lit, and applied. The first flames were so tiny, I didn’t see them. But they were slowly going to get bigger and bigger.  I wouldn’t smell the smoke until it was too late.

It wasn’t a bush that was gonna be burning.  It was gonna be me.

Fire02

 

 

 

“Messenger of Peace”

while walking home
i saw
a white dove
land
dab smack
in the middle
of a four-lane road,
on-coming traffic
on both sides

and none of these muthafuckas was tryin to slow down

the dove
took off,
swerved,
barrel-rolled,
dodged,
fluttered and flapped and soared
towards
the horizon
unharmed
and glorious

i guess even
a messenger of peace
needs
to look
both ways