Why Great Transition Stories Matter

Although humanity has always faced challenges throughout history, the challenges we face at this time are unique in one respect, and this makes all the difference: There are no frontiers left. For example, climate change respects no national boundaries. The circle has closed and, because the Earth has converged into a single, integrated system, a new story is required that describes the overall human journey within it. Without a story to orient us collectively for the future, we are literally lost. When we are lost, it is easy to be frightened and to focus on security and survival, to look for threats, and to pull together into ‘safe’ enclaves. Policies for energy and climate will not go deep enough to change our mind and change our direction. A collective and powerful story of the human journey that serves as the social glue to pull us together consciously in common effort could take us into another direction. We don’t have that story now, so we tend to fall back on old policies, old histories, old customs, old institutions, and old dreams. However, the story we seek is already present in diverse areas: biology, psychology, cosmology, mythology, and more. It is time to gather the wisdom of the human journey from diverse sources to understand the time of profound transition we are moving through and the promise that lies ahead. That is the purpose of the Great Transition Stories project.

The next five to ten years represent an unprecedented time in the human journey. The human community is now in a creative and dangerous time of transition. We are between stories or the guiding mythologies that serve as beacons for our collective future. For example, in the U.S., the “American Dream” that pulled people forward for at least three generations is fast becoming the world’s nightmare as the excesses of consumerism produce climate disruption, the depletion of cheap oil, growing income disparities, and more. Instead of a different “dream,” people want wide-awake visions of real possibilities told in ways that are believable and compelling. Given the speed of change in the Earth situation (population numbers and concentrations, resource limits, climate changes, etc.), it is more important that we humans find a common story for our journey than we might think. We are within a decade of collectively hitting an evolutionary wall where we will be confronted with ourselves as a species.

We face big challenges and it will take an equally big vision to transform conflict into cooperation and draw us into a promising future. It is time to engage in the unprecedented task of envisioning a workable and meaningful future for humanity. To do this creatively, we require tools of imagination that enable us to stand back from current crises and see the human journey in a larger perspective. The most difficult challenge facing humanity is not devising solutions to the energy crisis or climate crisis or population crisis; rather, it is bringing images and stories of the human journey into our collective awareness that empower us to look beyond a future of great adversity and to see a future of great opportunity. Stories of ‘great transition’ respond directly to that challenge by offering alternative ‘big picture perspectives’ that look beyond our time of transition to a promising future.

Videos

Grounded in Story

Author and scholar Mary Evelyn Tucker illustrates the power and purpose of story and explains how they ground and orient us in the world.


Mythologist and Storyteller, Michael Meade, explains how this world is made of stories.