Narrative is Everything
Narrative is everything.
Without a compelling narrative for our lives, we're wandering in the dark, lost and confused.
In some spiritual circles, our "stories" get a bad rap. We're supposed to be beyond them, or let them go. But is being without a story enlightenment, or is it paralysis?
How are we supposed to get motivated and know who we are and what we stand for if we lack a coherent and compelling narrative for our lives and our place in the world?
I am just emerging from four days of being out of commission. I was processing some rapid transition on various levels – physical (my body got sick), emotional (I was having all the feels), and mental (my life narrative turned to goo and needed to be re-formed).
What got me back online last night was watching Star Wars, The Last Jedi!
It wasn't even the best movie (sadly, none of the new Stars Wars movies are) but it tapped me back into a narrative that has a lot of juice for me – the story of the light triumphing over the dark against all odds because of love, determination, a sliver of hope, and alignment with a mysterious and benevolent universal Force.
I'm reminded of Joseph Campbell's work on the Power of Myth and how much we need these narratives to have any sense of order, direction, and meaning in our lives.
I think about this in the context of the men's leadership trainings we offer here in the Brotherhood Community. As men, we have an impoverished set of stories to draw from – stories that center ourselves over others, stories of dominance and control, stories of toughening up, fighting it out, and doing it alone.
Our impoverished storybook creates separation and pain on all scales – for individuals, in relationships, in families, and even nationally. War and political discord are expressions of toxic masculinity gone haywire.
What gives me hope is that mainstream myths are evolving. White men aren't the only heroes, and sometimes the hero isn't a singular person but a team or collective. Moana and Black Panther are two recent favorites that light me up every bit as much as Star Wars!
When we watch a movie like Star Wars, Moana, or Black Panther, we may be inspired but it takes an additional translation step for our lives to actually change.
Even if we're so lucky as to be creating social change professionally, and have a mission as grand as saving the galaxy from the dark side, or saving our island from a mysterious decay, or securing safety for our people, we're not wielding light sabers and sailing the oceans every day…
It's never so glamorous. We're writing emails, sitting behind computers, working with documentation and processes. We're serving real humans, who can be a pain in the ass sometimes! The grind can wear away at the precious mythology of our hearts and reduce us to machines.
So somehow we must feel the spirit of our mission in and between the actions we take. Our narrative must remain brighter than the daily frustrations and annoyances that come with our responsibilities. We need to be regularly remembering our narrative and re-charging our tanks. Or else we burn out.
In the Brotherhood Community, our mission is to connect and train emerging male leaders who are fully alive, self-expressed, and embody the full dynamic range of our power and sensitivity. We invite men into their deepest purpose, invoke their greatest visions for the world, and ignite them into principled action. We lead with joy – in collaboration with people of all genders – in service of a more beautiful, equitable, and sustainable world.
This overarching narrative that we're holding – which still leaves a lot of room for diverse interpretations – is a precious alternative to some of the default masculine narratives I mentioned earlier. Men who engage with our community feel the living presence of this narrative, and it fills them up.
I've never been one to value or enjoying sitting in a living room with dudes, drinking beer, eating nachos, and watching a football game. I'd rather be eating nachos while connecting around something deeper, more purposeful.
I'm curious, how connected do you feel to an overarching narrative for your life and purpose? Would you be willing to take a risk and articulate it here?