Monday, 30 April 2018

Wise Words: The Stories We Need

New stories—or old stories in new form—will not be purely individual endeavours. They will not arise from research, from thinking, from analysis, from planning. They will not be utopian, globalist, all-encompassing, neat and satisfying. If we are to develop different ways of relating ourselves to the earth or to some new spiritual methodology that connects us back again to our natural heritage, this isn’t going to come from our rational minds. It may not come from us at all. The mythologist Martin Shaw speaks of stories as being “an echo location from the Earth.” The old folktales and foundation myths, he says, were not purely the creations of human minds. Rather, those minds acted like aerials, telling a story that a place, or the spirit of a place, wanted to be told. Such new stories, again, are the oldest stories of all: they are a retelling of the eternal story, from before we felled the tree. And they are not the product of thinking. They are the product of listening.

What if the stories we need, the new ways of seeing, are right here under our feet, waiting for us to notice them? What if they are dancing through the canopy in the sunlight? One of the most startling claims that [cultural historian and ecotheologian, Thomas] Berry makes in The Dream of the Earth is that our human ability to question ourselves and question life, to measure and explore and think about the nature of everything, represents a necessary evolutionary leap. Human beings, he says, are the universe made self-aware. To care for the universe, then, is to care for ourselves. Respecting the earth is a form of self-respect.

(Paul Kingsnorth, ‘The Axis and the Sycamore’, Orion Magazine,


  1. i read berry's "the dream of the earth" back in the early 1990s, when i was at uni. i thought it was lovely, and very natural in its conclusions. it seemed perfectly reasonable that we should be described as the universe's consciousness. now i feel it should be required reading for all high school students, and i am rather nostalgic for those days when it seemed we were becoming more aware and on track to make things better not worse... sigh.

    1. I read it earlier this year, and loved it. It is indeed the kind of book that should be required reading. But I agree with you—Berry understood the problems of Western culture way back in the 80s (and earlier), yet so little seems to have been done since then. It is frustrating, how such wisdom exists, yet so few people listen or act upon it.


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