We are calling all our storytellers to help us respond creatively to the Year 2000 Problem (Y2K). Please help us reach them in any way you can. If you are a storyteller (and anyone from a novelist to a videographer, from a journalist to a historian IS one), please take this Call to heart.
If you are interested in participating in Y2K storyteller conferences, send your name, email and the sort of storytelling work you do to email@example.com.
It is time for all of us to become awakened authors of our best individual and collective stories. We need our storytellers to call us forth into them.
The hour is late. Please help. Pass this on.
We believe that as Y2K and other global systems unravel, people
everywhere are in great need of new stories to interpret these
times and assist them with their own being.
We believe that we must call our storytellers together and alert them to our great need for their voices.
The storytellers we seek are all those who work with Life's Narrative in all its forms -- internal and external ... individual and collective ... actual and possible ... past, present and future.
Therefore we call on journalists and historians, novelists and moviemakers, psychologists and sociologists, mythmakers and music-makers and all the others to awaken to their social role as storytellers, and together to weave for us the new stories that we need.
We further believe that these are unprecedented times and there are things to learn here -- new ways to see, think and feel. We call on our storytellers to explore Y2K until they live and breathe it, and to awaken to the entire new category of global dilemmas and failures that are now beginning to occur. They will then be prepared to move us.
We want to do at least two things:
1. Hold at least one invitational conference where storytellers gather, learn about Y2K and other potential global issues, and connect with the need to amplify their voice. This could be followed by other conferences to engage other storytellers and make further progress together.
2. To put out a call, through existing networks, institutes and professional artist associations, to alert storytellers to our perception of these times, and encourage them to more consciously and quickly give voice to the new stories they hold.
To support both of these activities, we plan to catalyze online forums and face-to-face dialogues of all types to encourage sustained conversations about the many issues related to this effort. For example, we'd like to see discussions about
We have identified key storytellers whom we would like to reach, and whose networks we would like to engage in this effort. This is a very partial list:
Ursula LeGuin, Garrison Keillor, Eric Utne, Daniel Quinn, Steven Spielberg, Marge Piercy, Jean Hegland, Studs Turkel, Jean Houston, Deena Metzger, Toni Morrison, Frances Moore Lappe, Robert Redford, Norman Lear....
Starhawk, Ernest Callenbach, Anna Deavere Smith, Alice Walker, Paul Glover, John Trudell, Theodore Roszak, Larry Shook, Susan Griffin, Gary Larson, Donella Meadows, a few TV scriptwriters....
Sara Van Gelder, Gary Snyder, Malidoma Some, Mary Oliver, Joan Halifax, Grace Paley, Barbara Kingsolver, Maxine Hong Kingston, Bill McKibben, Tony Hillerman, Nancy Schimmel, Brian Swimme....
The time we knew would come has, indeed, arrived. What we do now will truly make all the difference in the world.
"Y2K is a digital problem, which requires an analog answer. We need a story!"
-- Miranda Joan Howe, poet
"To poison a nation, poison its stories. A demoralized nation tells demoralized stories to itself.... The true story-teller suffers the chaos and the madness, the nightmare, resolves it all, sees clearly, and guides you surely through the fragmentation and the shifting world.... Stories can change an age, turn an era round."
-- Ben Okri, African writer
Our old story is coming into clear view with the Year 2000 problem, a historic event that will likely transform us all, for better and for worse. The inability of many computers and microchips to deal with the dilemma of a four digit year will most certainly generate disruptions in our lives. And since none of us can know the extent of these disruptions, or their impact on society, the stories we tell each other now will shape our expectations and our responses during the next few years.
Y2K is dramatizing many aspects of the familiar cultural story we've been living in for decades. Y2K's relentless, non-negotiable deadline and potential magnitude are pushing us to confront who we are, to see what we have created. The protean threat of multiple systems failing simultaneously is challenging us to respond with fundamental shifts in how we behave, what we value, and how we want to be together.
We have been living a story of individuals whose sustenance and meaning derive from consumption and production in a mass-based, technological economy. Y2K has the potential to reveal our awesome power to falter and suffer because of the fragility of the systems we created to sustain this lifestyle. But this unmasking opens us to the possibility of a new story, one where we acknowledge our interconnectedness and our deep need for one another.
We have always been deeply embedded in webs of connection and interdependence; they are reality itself. And these webs are stronger than the brittle links that Y2K will snap. We wove an artificial infrastructure of economics and technology that paradoxically seemed to free us from the constraints of communion with each other and with nature. This old story, based on the illusion of independence and conquest, produced disastrous consequences. And it is about to display more dramatically its destructive potential.
In the absence of a new story, we have little choice but to fall back on the myth of individual survivalism. Too many of us could turn inward -- or turn on each other -- rather than turning to one another in mutual vulnerability and community. If we live out our old story now, when the artificial nets upon which we've depended are unraveling, we won't be able to find each other, help each other, and make our way home.
The old story in which we've been living for most of this century tells us:
Life is controllable. We can always figure out how to domesticate the chaos.
The Y2K version of this old story shows up in survivalist preachings, in apocalyptic mania, in the hundred faces of Y2K profiteering, and most strangely and fiercely, in the denial of Y2K as a real issue. The internet is throbbing with the old story. The media dazzles us with it. Our leaders want to save us, and conceal from us what they know. We sit as blinded spectators, not knowing how to see or think differently.
We need a new story -- a new version of the most ancient story in the universe -- to help us return to ourselves, to each other, and to the world. We need this story to recover the fullness of our spirit, the depth and breadth of our natural kinship.
There is a Y2K version of the new story. It is being given voice in the growing number of people rallying communities to prepare together for Y2K. They are asking their neighbors to notice that the best preparation is a prepared community. "If your neighbor isn't ready, you're not ready," says Y2K community leader Paloma O'Riley. These activists have embodied Rabbi Hillel's famous questions: "If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" They understand there is no individual sanctuary, no humanity in closing ourselves off. They understand that the only hope for preventing suffering and social disruption is through turning to one another, preparing together for the unknown. They are choosing to give voice to service rather than to survival.
The new story also is heard in the voices of people calling to each other to reflect, to look deeper, to change our lives and our culture towards resilience and sustainability, towards meaning and passion, towards greater harmony with nature and with each other. Could we now be together with less arrogance, less alienation, less craziness, less destructiveness and less fear? For these new voices, Y2K is an opportunity to migrate to a new land, a place where we might be together differently.
But we need many more voices, because our maps are old and the old tales forgotten. We need our storytellers to paint us images of communities coming together, of us taking care of one another, of rediscovering who our neighbors are, of reconnecting with what's best in humanity. We need storytellers to wake us up, and set us on the path to Life again.
We need many different voices. We need morality tales. We need images that we can grow into. We need stories that delve into the grit of this challenge, the humanness that flares up as we are tempered in the hot uncertainties of these times. We need stories that burn with reality and enlighten us with new visions.
Y2K calls us to recognize that we are engaged in mythic and historic roles. We need you -- our playwrights, poets, moviemakers, journalists, our performers, balladeers, artists, dancers, our game-makers, dream-weavers, scriptwriters, our historians, psychologists, sociologists, our seers and listeners -- to hold your candles up, and to set the culture alight with your warnings, your visions, your interpretations, your maps, that we may find our way.
Our need for your voice will only grow. We urge you to learn about Y2K -- to immerse yourself in its dynamics, its scenarios, its emotional and spiritual dimensions, its voices, its potential role in the world and in our lives. We urge you to let it enter you, to let it expand the edges of your own story. And we ask you then to find your own way through, leaving markers as you go. We urge you to walk with us on this path that we are making.
A Ritual to Read To Each Other
If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider -
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep,
the signals we give -- yes or no, or maybe --
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.