Parenthood And The Space Between Stories
Charles Eisenstein is a speaker and writer focusing on themes of human culture and identity. He is the author of several books, most recently Sacred Economics, The Ascent of Humanity, and The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible. In this fireside chat, Eisenstein shares insights into what it means to bring a child into a world that is caught up in the space between the Old Story of Separation and the New (Ancient) Story of Connection.
Lisa Reagan, Kindred’s executive editor, attended Eisenstein’s workshop on the Space Between Stories in 2013 in Charlottesville, VA. She asks Eisenstein to help Kindred readers understand the hallmarks of the Old Story, the possibilities of the New Story and “why should we bring children into a violent and dying world?” Charles’ answer at the workshop caused her heart to burst and eyes to leak. Listen for his answer in this interview.
To discover more insights into the Conscious Parenting Movement’s role in exploring the New Story, listen to Lisa’s Monday LIVE Lecture to the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health’s international student body on the New Story Of Childhood, Parenthood and the Human Family here.
Parenthood And The Space Between Stories
A Transcript Of The Above Interview
How Do We Get To The Big Picture View? Why Is Context Important?
LISA REAGAN: Welcome to Kindred’s Fireside Chats. This is Lisa Reagan and today I am talking with Charles Eisenstein. Charles is the author of The Ascent of Humanity, Sacred Economics, and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. He is also the father of 4 boys and today, he is going to talk to us about living in the space between stories, especially as parents. So, welcome Charles.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Hi Lisa.
LISA REAGAN: Thank you so much for coming and talking to us and especially this really important topic of living in the space between stories and before I ask you to tell us about the old and the new story, I was wondering if you could just take a moment to talk to us about context, because I feel like what you’re getting ready to share with us provides some context. I do not know about you, but I find it hard sometimes to get people to go with me to this metalevel and I would like to kind of tip our listeners off to what kind of treasure you can find with this meta ascent of going up to this high level.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Mmhmm.
LISA REAGAN: And seeing this big picture view.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Yeah, maybe the best way to do that is to tell a little bit about how I got there.
LISA REAGAN: Okay.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: You know, it kind of came through this breakdown in normal. You know, we kind of have inherited this program of here’s what childhood is supposed to look like and that is kind of what childhood was. Maybe it was always a bit idealized, but there was a story of what growing up in a family in America looked like that worked pretty well when I was a child. So I inherited that here’s how to be a dad, here’s what a family looks like, here is how to raise children. But it did not work very well when I became a father and I did not really have much of a reference point why it isn’t working and what would work. That is why I like to play with the idea of story. We have a story that tells us, what is normal, how to be a parent, what childhood is supposed to be and that story is failing us today, which is very disorienting and we kind of reach out and grasp for something and maybe try to make the old way work and maybe we let go of that. When we let go of that, we are in this world of a million possibilities and a million theories. So I guess what I do in my work is I tie that phenomenon in with other changes that are happening in our society and other ways that our defining narrative are breaking down and realizing that it is all part of the same large transition that our society is going through that effects everything from economics to politics to medicine to education and to how we take care of children. I guess to kind of motivate this inquiry without this larger picture, it just seems bewildering these changes that are happening.
LISA REAGAN: It is. I think overwhelm is a condition of parenting now. I know the New York Times just had this awesome article entitled “The Trauma of Parenthood” and it summarized how at risk you become if you are an adult and you adopt or you have a child in this culture because of the lack of support and that is a huge blind spot for America and so we do not see that other countries have in place public policies that support family leave, for example, or just are more connected in ways that we are not America. I could be wrong and maybe I am being cynical, but there is almost a contempt around parenting that is probably coming from wounding and being raised in this Western old story culture, but it is really difficult for parents to get what they need. This is acknowledged that once you step into parenthood, you are at risk for clinical depression and then very little resources or empathy waiting for you. So the risk is real and it is not just a pull yourself up by your bootstraps and quit your belly aching…
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Right.
LISA REAGAN: Which is probably one of those old story lines that we would have written on the wall at the retreat that I attended. I should say that the reason I really wanted to talk to you today was because I attended one of your retreats about the Space Between Stories and we went through these awesome exercises of filling the wall with these posters of phrases like that so we could identify what it is like to talk to yourself and others from the old story and what it is like to speak from the new story. So I do not want to interrupt you telling us about the old story and the new story, so again, tell us more.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Okay. I mean, should I take it down to the most basic level?
LISA REAGAN: Yes, the most basic level.
What Are The Old And New Stories?
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Alright. So the basic framework… and I want to say before I begin that this itself is a story. It is kind of a map or a lens or a frame through which we can see what is happening. But is it the ultimate truth? Maybe not. You know, there are other lenses and frames and maps that are also useful. So here is kind of the basic version that our civilization is built on a set of answers to really basic questions like: Who are we? What is a human being? What is a self? How does change happen in the world? What is important? What is valuable? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What motivates a human being? And the answer that we’ve come to over centuries, or even longer, is basically that what you are is a separate individual in an external objective universe. What you are is a soul encased in flesh or a bubble of psychology, a point of subjectivity. What you are is a kind of a genetically programmed machine that seeks to maximize reproductive self-interests. What you are is a mind or a consciousness that is separate from other minds and other consciousness’s. What you are is an economic actor seeking to maximize self-interests, echoing biology there.
So whether it is religious or scientific, they all kind of agree on what a self is. So for example, that means that what happens to you does not necessarily impact me. You could get sick. You could get sick. You could go through all kinds of joy or trauma, but that is separate from my joy and trauma, unless of course we live in the same house or something like that. But fundamentally what happens to you is not happening to me and by extension, what happens to nature is not happening to me as long as I can insulate myself from what is happening out there. For example, through technology, there could be a lot of pollution around here, but that is okay, I can import my food from somewhere far away where there is not pollution and I will be fine as long as I have enough money to do that and as long as I have enough power to do that. So another part of the old story is well-being comes through insulating ourselves from these indifferent or hostile forces out there. Hostile because they could be in competition with us, but at least they are indifferent, they are just forces of nature. So the ascent of humanity is characterized in this story as the ascendancy of technologies of control by which we become the lords and masters of nature. So there is a social dimension and a personal dimension to the story. Who am I? Who are we? How does change happen? What is good?
That is the old story and as far as parenting and education and things, I think a really key aspect is the idea that goodness comes through control through the conquest of nature, both outer nature and inner nature. So if we are, for example, fundamentally selfish beings seeking to maximize our reproductive self-interests or our financial self-interests. You know, if we are fundamentally selfish, then to have a workable society, we have to overcome our biology. We have ascend to some realm of mind. We have to cultivate discipline and self-control and win a war against the self. And many of our conceptions of spirituality or self-development kind of buy into that. You know, the evolved person is somebody who makes rational decisions, not desire based decisions, not impulsive decisions. The evolved person is somebody who has detached from the messy world who is pure and clean. You know, not dirty and mixed up with materiality. It operates in a spiritual realm, but it also operates in the way that we try to condition our children and to cultivate in them what we perceive as characteristics that contradict what we see as human nature.
LISA REAGAN: Let me just make sure I heard the word. You said goodness, is that what you said? Goodness is cultivated by…
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Goodness, yes.
LISA REAGAN: … going to battle with the self, inner and outer.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Yeah, virtue. You know, who is the more admirable person, the one who just gives into desire or the one who holds himself to ethical principles and does not just do whatever he wants?
LISA REAGAN: Right.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: So we try to train our children that way as well. You know, like for example for them to do well in school, they can’t just do whatever they want. They have to pay attention. They have to sit in the classroom. They have to do worksheets, you know, and learn the material, and only after they have done that, then they can have recess, which is maybe half an hour at best these days. We used to have two recesses when I was in elementary school. But then they get to have recess as kind of this reward. But even play is valued, because it is skill’s development or it is educational and so you see children’s games and toys, the alphabet gets smuggled in, or counting. You know, it’s like, they can play and learn at the same time. So this kind of de-emphasis on play is part of the old story. As a parent, I experience this a lot, like trying to understand like here is part of where how to raise a family was not working. When I was a kid, we could go outside and there would be packs of other kids playing all over the place, imaginative, creative games, but when my eldest kids were little, you know, I tried to send them outside to play with the other kids, but there weren’t other kids playing outside. It wasn’t because there weren’t other kids in our neighborhood. It was because other kids were not allowed to go outside and play, you know, except maybe once or twice a week for an hour or two because they were so programmed, you know, to get a head start in this competitive developmental race. Play was just like this after thought. It wasn’t, as I came to consider it, like the most important thing a child can do. But it was something that, you know, it comes second or third or fourth.
LISA REAGAN: Right, it’s a waste of time. You could be doing something to develop yourself and become more productive.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Right. And this corresponds. That attitude corresponds with the nature of biology or even the nature of reality. When scientists try to explain animal play, it sure looks like animals spend a lot of time playing. If you observe them, they spend a lot of time like birds. You know, I was outdoors a few days and this mockingbird was just pouring forth it’s song for hours and hours, just because it could. You know, what is the scientific so called explanation for this? You know, it was seeking a mate. It was staking out its territory. It was asserting dominance over other mockingbirds or whatever. You know, like for it to be a scientific explanation, it can’t be because the bird loves to express itself. You know, because it likes to play with these sounds. Because it wants to give it’s gift song and beautify the soundscape around it. You know, no, those are not scientific explanations. The scientific explanation is here is some way in which it will benefit it’s reproductive advantage and that is our story of what motivates a living being. Everything gets kind of explained as some variation of the competitive survival instinct. So we do not maybe explicitly bring that into child rearing, but that forms the backdrop of our thinking about development and something that we really need to question. Because it is not working.
LISA REAGAN: Well, it does not work, especially in education, which is based on Prussian army and factory models. The performance of our children is not being developed and made to perform properly and yet, you look at across the board, the United States lags behind significantly behind other countries who have, for example, have figured out how to incorporate play. How important is play? How important is the non-structured approach to education? So this piece is that this is the old story here. This is what you are describing.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Right.
LISA REAGAN: I should tell you that I will share with the listener first, that in this workshop, we did this exercise where we could, you know, talk about what are the old story phrases and that was a lot of fun because it was so easy and it was so knee jerk to come up with some of these phrases that we would say to each other every day in our lives that come from this place. Some of them I said earlier: “Quit your belly aching!” “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” You know, those kinds of, “Treat yourself like a machine.” And then there was the move into what is this new story and that was so much harder to come up with, how do we speak to each other now from the new story?
And when we broke into the little groups and we practiced, somebody had a legitimate real question from their life. There was 3 people in a group. One person would echo the new story, here I am going to answer you from this point of view, and someone would answer from the old story. When I had to be the new story, I found there was no knee jerk answer. I had to really drop into my being and look at the person I am speaking with and there was such a shift.
A physical shift into the presence, into my bones, into acknowledging her, and there probably was not going to be anything knee jerk happening, but there was a trust also between this person and me that she is telling me the truth. She is asking something legitimately concerning to her, why I would I respond to her out of a knee jerk place? So this exercise I took to mother’s group that I was speaking to about the new and the old story and I did this with moms to see, did they have this same experience I had? So we had a mom in the group talk about, I just can’t get my kids out of the door, what am I supposed to do… this is a very typical mother thing to say and that was her concern.
Legitimate concern in this group of mothers, about 12 mothers. And we practiced. What do we say to her? What do we say to her to tell her to say to her children? What is the advice giving, prescribing, pull it together, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and then we shifted into the new story and I just watched as everyone in the room really did have this experience that I had, which was there is no advice giving and prescribing here and what we felt was we just needed to listen to her more. Maybe there was something legitimately going on underneath this that was not what she presented as her concern.
But there was something else that we just needed to make space for to come forward and once she could do that and she did, then the initial how do I deal with this was not even the issue. It was not even really what was foremost. It was what was superficial and on the surface. So I would like to now that we have kind of tipped off the listener to where we are going, can you talk a little bit about the new story and why it is so different and why is it so new?
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Yeah. It is actually not new. It is actually very ancient, much more ancient than the old story, but it is new for us and new in the context of a mass society. So basically it is kind of the opposite of the old story. First, you know, what is a human being if not a separate self? So of course it is an interconnected or inter-existent self, which means what happens to another being, what happens to another person, what happens to nature, is also happening to us. What we do on a small scale, we are doing to everything, including ourselves. Our well-being is connected. It is not like in a competitive arena where more for you is less for me, but it is more for you is more for me. So one way to explain it is you would never say, you know, “I have a terrible stomach ache and in fact, you know, ulcers, and then my stomach is sick, but I’m fine, I’m healthy. It’s just my stomach. It’s not me.” You wouldn’t say that, right, you would say, my stomach is sick. But we because of the way we understand the self, we are quite able to say, yeah, the oceans are dying. The forests are dying. Or all of these terrible things are happening on the planet that the whales are getting tortured with advanced military sonar, or whatever particular thing is happening. But that is just happening to them. That is just happening to the whales. I’m fine. It’s not happening to me. Because our understanding of what me is does not extend to include these other beings. Maybe we have what we sometimes call spiritual experiences in which we do realize our inter-being-ness and our oneness, but we kind of relegate those to the spiritual realm, when they are in fact glimpses of the truth.
LISA REAGAN: Yes.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: And on some level, what we are doing to the world, we can no longer insulate ourselves from it and I think that the kind of decay of our society which effects all classes, rich and poor in different ways, is a reflection of all of the things that we are doing to the planet. It is inescapable. So if the self is not a separate individual, but rather the totality of one’s relationships, a mirror of all beings, then the purpose of life is no longer to maximize the self-interest of that narrow, isolated self, but it is to contribute to the well-being of all, to express fully one’s gifts toward a beautiful purpose. Human nature becomes very different. Sharing becomes no longer something that goes against the biological grain and so you can see how that might affect the way that we raise children. Like, do we really have to teach them to share? Do we really have to kind of coerce them with conditional approval and the withholding of approval to make them do things that they do not really want to do otherwise? You know, do they have to be objects of our engineering, which mirrors civilizations approach to material reality, or is there perhaps an intelligence outside of ourselves. I am not saying that it is outside of the world in the hands of God or something like that, I am saying is there… This is part of the new story that says there are qualities of a self, purpose, intelligence, consciousness, desire, the will to play…
These qualities of self do not just exist in human beings, but they are in other beings and animals even and plants. Even in rocks and mountains and nature and the universe as a whole. This is really a fundamental part of the new story. It is something that most ancient people believed as well. If you believe that, then you say, okay there is an unfolding process that will naturally draw the child that is embedded in the child’s being and my job as a parent is to create conditions where that unfolding can happen naturally and the child can become that which he is meant to become. So it is kind of, in the old story, we have this kind of correlate of the engineering mentality that we apply to society and call it social engineering and social science and then we apply it as well to children. In the new story, we take a different attitude where we seek to serve a process that is beyond ourselves, that is not imposed from or by us onto reality, but is emergent and auto-poetic. So, I guess another part of the new story that I would like to talk about is the understanding that everything we do has cosmic significance. The kind of big stuff, the socially recognized stuff, you know, the stuff that you can rationally explain how it will change millions of people or change the world, is actually no more or less important than the same amount of energy and care and thought and love that is devoted to just one child. That is devoted to things at home.
That any act of care or compassion, forgiveness, generosity, love strengthens the field of those things and brings them more into the world in ways that we cannot understand. Because I think a lot of the breakdown of our families has to do with kind of this social valorization of the big important work, the career, the stuff outside the home, and the devaluing of what was traditionally the realm of women. And then feminism takes us up and says yes, the liberation of women will come from allowing them to join this valorized world outside the home and continuing to buy into the patriarchal devaluing, the small, the personal, the intimate, the nurturing. So that’s a whole another topic.
LISA REAGAN: It is.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: It comes back to what you were saying about like, paid child leave and stuff like that, our society in very practical terms, it does not value the most important thing in life. Any sane society supports the most important thing, which is the raising of children. You know, that should be supported with some sort of universal basic income or something like that. Like you should not have to outsource the raising of your children so you can go contribute to the enormous pile of stuff that is drowning us.
LISA REAGAN: Right. And evidence that there is a shift happening and there is some kind of field of consciousness and greater than individuals occupying that field. The New American Dream just came out with their every 10 years they do this study and it shows that people are opting out of working and they are opting in for being with their families and there is a shift away from consumerism. It just came out last week. It is showing evidence of this becoming aware of the price is too high. The personal cost for this stuff, for the consumerism, for the career, the job, is too high, and it is not what people really wanted and they are discovering that anyway. What they want is to have, they are choosing more simple existences and relationship. So that we a really eye opening report and they have only done it like I said, every decade. So it looks like there is a space between stories and there are people and organizations and individuals and non-profits that are in this space. I am wondering if you can help us have some, you know, what is happening in this space between stories and it is the wetlands of consciousness or something. How can we become just more aware of being in this in-between?
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Yeah. There is kind of a transition process that goes on, both on a personal level and a collective level, where the old story falls apart. Where a series of crises and breakdown reveals it to be nothing more than a story or a makes it stop working. At first, maybe we try to keep it working and we cling to it, but eventually we have to give up. When that happens, we do not necessarily have a robust new story to give meaning and direction to life. You know, the old story says here is how you do it. You go for your biannual colonoscopy and you do this and you take your kids to the dentist every 6 months and you get them started early in preschool so that can already be reading by age 4, etc, etc, etc, you know, like there is this whole program of how to raise a happy, healthy, successful family, how to be a success in society. You know, there is this whole program. We can speak about it on a political level as well, but this kind of story of the happy, healthy, successful family does not work very well anymore. Even if you believe in it whole heartedly and you try your best, all kinds of crises and breakdowns happen. It does not work like it did maybe in the 1950s.
You know, you have played by all of the rules and you know, try to make your kid do well in school, then maybe the kid resists in some ways consciously or not. You know, gets ADHD, or ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) and is acting out in school and there is an old story category for that, it is a disorder, and that can be medicated. That is a way of trying to hold onto that old story. But eventually, well, let’s just say that a new story is knocking at the door. Or maybe you or child gets some kind of health condition and you dutifully go to the doctor and the doctor does not believe you. He says you’re fine. I was just talking to somebody who had this experience. They went to doctor after doctor after doctor and they all said that they were fine, maybe the problem is in your head, you know, prescribed them Prozac, and then finally they go to a specialist. It was actually a Naturopath, who said, oh, you have chronic Lyme. Here, do this.
So what was real and normal is revealed as a fantasy and it is very disorienting when this breakdown happens. This kind of disoriented bewildered uncertain time, I call this space between stories. Where the old system of meanings have broken down, but new ones are not available yet. So how do you live them? What do you do? You know, there used to be a formula or prescription. Here’s how you get your kids out the door. Here is how you manage behavior in the classroom. Here is how you maintain your health. Those do not apply anymore and you don’t believe the authorities that promulgate those views, those prescriptions. So there is no guidance anymore. So that is the space between stories and from the kind of emptiness and unknowing and the darkness of that space. I am not using darkness in a negative sense here. It is this kind of latent or pregnant time. From that empty space, new things can arrive. That is what allows the new story to come in. If you try to impose it on somebody for whom the old story is still working, they are going to resist it. They are going to think you are crazy and you have probably had that experience. You know.
LISA REAGAN: Sure.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: But the people that you can reach are the ones who have kind of been disillusioned or on the verge of being disillusioned and then that’s what it takes for the new story to grow in us. So I have presented this as kind of a linear process, but it is actually of course a lot more complicated than that and probably all of us live to some extent in the old story and to some extent in the new story and to some extent in the space between stories. We are going through this transition together.
“We Cannot Prepare, But We Are Being Prepared”
LISA REAGAN: Right and that is confusing to meet people from all walks of life who are really interested in, for example, the holistic conscious living parenting and conscious family living that we are interested in. It is overwhelming because it is everything and I was one of those mothers that wanted to be a good girl and be loved until I had a child and something was activated in me to begin to question like I had never questioned before and I was a journalist by trade. I thought I knew what it was to investigate, but I really didn’t until I had a child and it was a huge trigger for depression just to find out that so much of what I wanted to be true and stable and secure, wasn’t. But on the other side of this journey with other parents, and I really need to say here, anyone can find and create a community of other parents to have these kind of discussion with. It is an awesome adventure. It is a wonderful adventure to find out what is possible. What is possible and healing that is going on now in all kinds of realms. It is still considered in America a dangerous thing to think of holistic medicine as applied to children, or holistic anything. But it can be a really wonderful adventure. You know, I love this quote that you have in your story that we posted on Kindred about the space between stories, and you said, “We can’t prepare, but we are being prepared.” I am wondering if you could just speak to that, because that speaks to my bones in a way that helps me to relax and feel trusting.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Yeah. That kind of comes from the idea that there is kind of an intelligence beyond ourselves in the unfolding of our lives and of our civilization’s collective evolution. In the old story, order, organization, beauty, and so forth, are things that we impose on this kind of purposeless insensate obstrate of generic particles. We harness natural forces and apply them and bring order and light and reason and intelligence into the world. So turned inward, everything, in order to become something, in order to evolve, we have to do things for ourselves. We have to make efforts. We have to exercise our intentionality and our discipline and mold ourselves. So when you apply that to spirituality. I have discovered this almost everywhere. Even in very kind of holistic new age kind of things, there is this idea that spiritual growth is a matter of personal accomplishment.
That your spiritual development is a consequence of your own efforts. You know, you did the yoga. You did the meditation and that is why you have become more conscious. At least, you surrendered. Some people say, “What can I do?” There is always this question, “What can I do?” to reach this attainment. I think that is something that we need to question. I am not saying to throw out yoga or meditation or any of these spiritual practices, but to turn them into something for which we can then take credit and establish ourselves as a kind of elite in a hierarchal development. That is really dubious. What about the idea that spiritual development comes as a gift? It comes through the generosity of something beyond ourselves. It comes as a part of this natural process. You know, and I have noticed that in my own life that big changes in my thinking usually happen when my old way of thinking stops working for some reason and they come to me, either through other people’s ideas or just as this moment of inspiration, this epiphany.
I honestly cannot take credit for those things. They happen to me. I am being prepared for what’s ahead. And that is kind of hard for my mind to grapple with, the idea that I do not have to do anything and in fact all of my habits of doing are part of the problem. The habit comes back and says what do I do about that? Maybe something is being done to me. Maybe something is being done to anyone listening right now. You might think, what do I do with this information? I’ve got to apply it. I’ve got to do something. But maybe it’s, you know, I’m not making myself out to be special because this new story is taking a million forms and seeping into our minds and into our bodies and as it comes in, it does something to us. It changes who we are. And from that changed place, new doings will happen. We will have new urges, new enthusiasms, and we will act in different ways, but the source of that action could be something that we receive, not something that we attain in the old mentality of conquest.
LISA REAGAN: Right. I like the word unfolding. As a gardener, I do know that it does not matter if I show up or not, things are going to grow. I do not really have anything to do with any of that, I am just out there messing around and you know, if it looks good at some point when I leave, great, but it is something I get to play with. I wonder how much the disconnect, I guess you hit on this right from the very beginning. The old story is actually the new story and the new story is the old story. The new story being the industrial story, which is now our old story, which does not work and is fading and breaking down.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Mmhmm.
LISA REAGAN: That came out of the disconnect of nature and now this return or a consideration or whatever it is, moving towards at least oneness, the awareness of connection and interconnection and interdependency. It is fun. I did spring that on the moms on the group where we were practicing your exercise and going between new story and old story. At the end, I said, okay, here’s the surprise, there is no new story. It’s the old story. They just looked at me, like, oh God, oh please. That was too much, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. But it is fun to consider that. So here is another quote from you, “The force that moves us toward forward into a new story is each other and we are creating the new story together.” I think that is I like the couch things and Joseph Campbell’s. Because I’m an English major, I like to use Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and the hero’s journey when talking to parents, because I want to have my story is that it can be an adventure.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Mmhmm.
LISA REAGAN: It can be this dropping into the underworld and composting ourselves and our belief is that it can be an adventure. We see it all around us in theatre and movies all of the time, this model. It is what George Lucas used to come up with Star Wars. I like this idea of going forward together and each other is the new story. In the workshop that I attended, I have to confess that I had this question harbored within me when I came there to lay down before you, and the question was, why bring children into the world? Into a dying and violent world? And you answered it from the new story. Do you want to do that again, or do you want me to tell you what you said?
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: I have no memory of that, but I probably could. It would be an experiment.
LISA REAGAN: Okay.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Yeah, you know in the old story, it is irresponsible to bring more children into the world, because it is hopeless and you are just adding more consumption and you know, more mouths to feed, increasing the ecological footprint of humanity. And you know, we are still doing it because we have this biological imperative and that is one of the things that we need to get under control in order to have a livable planet. Speaking from the new story, I would say that we need people who are brought into the world by parents who understand that the purpose of life is to contribute to the emergence of a more beautiful world and we need children who are not programmed with the old story of competition and scarcity and self-interest maximization. When… we have almost no experience of what’s it’s like to be brought up in the new story, but when we are brought up in that story and see ourselves as inter-beings, we become capable of things that are impossible in the old story.
That are impossible for the separate self in a purposeless force based universe or that seem crazy or irresponsible or idealistic. A lot of what we call crazy, irresponsible and idealistic is precisely the things in a predictable, measurable way, enhance our own security and wealth and it takes a lot of courage in the present complex to attempt such things. To attempt the idealist and altruistic things, the seemingly naïve things. When we are brought up in a family that joins the economics systemic in suppressing those impulses, it is almost impossible to act on them. But when children are brought up in a family or even in a community that validates that impulses, they are much more likely to act on them and we need the next generation to be acting on them. We need the next generation to be acting from an expanded sense of possibility, an expanded sense of normality, and the deeply embodied knowledge that they are here as agents of what wants to be born on this earth and they are gifts. That they have the gifts that are uniquely needed to make this transition. We need people to really stand in that without fear, without the fear and the programming of, well, what about me? Will I be okay? Can I afford to that? Is it normal? We need people brought up in the new story. That’s what I would say. What did I say last time?
LISA REAGAN: You said that and you said that the old story would say technology will say this, so don’t worry.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Oh right.
LISA REAGAN: You did say that the old story would say, how dare you be so selfish as to bring children into this world and take up more resources and they said that the new story would say that children are the new story.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Yeah.
LISA REAGAN: And that made me cry.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Our generation was born in the old story and we are making the transition and yeah. Children are the new story. I run into young people sometimes who did not have to go through this process of, you know, clinging to the old story and having a break down and going to this space between stories and then finally gradually embracing various aspects of the new story. Sometimes I meet young people who were just born into it, you know. Maybe they had hippy parents or something, or it is just kind of in the air now. The morphic field is taking over and so I meet young people now, who are already standing in a place that took me 20 years, 30 years of struggle and back and forth and setbacks to reach in even a very partial way. But they are standing much more in it.
LISA REAGAN: Yes.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Because like for me, the old story still lives in my mind, you know. There is this little voice that says, oh come on, Charles, you know, that you know, that this is all just a fantasy. You know the way the world really works, you know. It is as you were brought up, you know. Like there is this kind of disparaging temptation kind of to lower expectations and to ignore my perceptions of a sacred world and to ignore my perceptions of this happening that I can contribute to and that in which what I do matters. You know, it is kind of like, yeah, Charles, you know better. It is this voice of cynicism that I do not know if I will ever fully shake it and it holds me back, you know. So that’s why I am so inspired by these young people.
LISA REAGAN: I hear you and I have met them too and what I do, I think, you know, I am going to go home and sleep in because everything is going to be fine. They’ve got it. We’re good. We’re all good. They’re all fine. I just wanted to say in your workshop you talked a little bit about humility and I just wanted to end on the idea as a parent how humbling it can be to do exactly what you just described, which I have also done. I have gone through years and years of struggling and trying to hold back my own conditioning, so I didn’t contaminate and get passed down to my son, my deepest horror that he would inherit my unconscious stuff and it would live on and get passed on. But what I have seen, that he is his own being and he is coming out of this new story and in a very humbling way, he is one of my greatest teachers when I allow him to be. That what an opposite notion to have in our culture that wants to control and discipline and shame children. That was a revelation to me, especially now that he is 16 and wow, he was just at your Alma mater by the way.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Mmhmm.
LISA REAGAN: But he is moving into a young man now and that’s the other revelation that wow, they grow up.
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Yeah.
LISA REAGAN: Thank you so much for talking to me today and for sharing this wonderful insight into the stories and the space between stories, especially as it relates to parenting and raising children in our culture. I should say that our readers can visit you at Charleseisenstein.net, is that right?
CHARLES EISENSTEIN: Yep, that’s right. Thank you Lisa, it was my pleasure.
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