New stories ...of an evolved society

I was reading a book this evening that has been touching me deeply lately. It is called The Five Things We Cannot Change... and the Happiness we Find by Embracing Them. It's written by David Richo. I'm currently reading the chapter about the 3rd thing we cannot change: "life is not always fair."
Richo posits that when we are treated unfairly, we are faced with a choice between revenge and reconciliation. Our homo sapien default setting is to respond with retaliation. With a spiritual practice, however, we can learn to overcome that impulse. He goes on to say that, "In an evolved society, animated by spiritual consciousness, the desire for retribution is replaced by the desire for restoration."(p. 37) He goes on to list some features of the "precivilized world of revenge" and the "new... smaller world of forgiving and restorative love." The following is a shortened version of his list

  • Retribution aims at punishing the evildoer as evil. Restoration moves toward seeking to heal the ignorance of the "evildoer."
  • Retribution aims at satisfying society's need for revenge. Restoration moves toward harmony.
  • Retribution aims at getting even. Restoration moves toward caring that a fallen brother or sister find redemption.
  • Retribution aims at getting rid of a disturbing and dangerous presence. Restoration moves toward correcting and then reincluding.
  • Retribution aims at preserving the historical style of dealing with injustice (an eye for an eye). Restoration moves toward finding an exciting and more humanitarian solution to injustice.
  • Retribution aims at [the] end of [a] story. Restoration moves toward [the] beginning of a dialogue.
    (pg. 37-38) [1] 

This final point hit me real hard. It also reminded me of a conversation that I was having just last night with writer and creative coach Laurie Wagner. She was telling me about the concept of new stories vs. old stories. All of it seems so relevant to what this blog is about. I needed to share it all here with you. 

Laurie explains the concept, which she learned from Deena Metzger

"The old paradigm of good guy / bad guy is dead. We can’t learn anything from that. Finding a 'bad guy' just reinforces our fears. What a distraction. Let’s find the bad guy - and then we eradicate the BAD because we’re GOOD. But this focus on the enemy, the bad guy, it never gets to the deeper issue, which is, 'How did we find ourselves in this situation?' 
Life is a dynamic and it doesn’t live as good/bad. So instead of looking at things good or bad - or characters or people or situations - we ask instead, 'how does this happen?' And if we can go down the rabbit hole a little and find the trail and the connecting parts - then we might learn something more interesting and maybe we can make change."

As I understand it, old stories are about good vs. evil, about a bad thing happening to a good person and trying to explain how it happened and how good triumphed over evil. They have the have classic story arcs, with the hero being victorious in the end when they have overcome adversity. New stories look at the core of the drama and ask "how did this happen?" The answer is a story fueled by nuance and an integration of the sacred and the utterly mundane. The conclusion is not a conclusion. It's open-ended.

What would it take for us to begin to let go of the stories that end? How do we start to tell the stories begin a dialogue?

[1] Richo, David. The Five Things We Cannot Change... and the Happiness we Find by Embracing Them. Boston & London: Shambala Publications, 2006.