Storytelling: how things came to be this way. Photo by Vanessa Serpas on Unsplash

Telling a Better Story

Reframing Our Relationship to Power

Better Questions

A Better Story

The Seventh Story

Let me briefly name what the six stories are.

The six stories are all attempts that humans have developed to bring peace and security.

We call them:

The domination story, which is really the empire story. “I’ll bring peace and security by ruling over you.” Caesar does it. Darth Vader does it. People do it in their families. Tyrannical bosses do it in their organizations.

The second story is the vengeance-based revolution story, which is, “I’ll get peace and security by overthrowing you and then I’ll rule over you, maybe slightly less bad as you have ruled over me.” But it’s still a domination story in the end.

The third story is the isolation story. “I want to get away from all of this. I am going to create a promised land/utopia. Of course, when I get there with all my elite, pure people, we’re going to start dominating each other and having revolutions — whether this is actual utopian communities or gated communities within our own minds.”

The fourth story, the purification story: “It’s not my fault. It’s their fault, because of what they believe or how they think or what they wear or the colour of their skin. I’m going to build a boundary between me and them. Or maybe I’ll just exterminate them to make sure we have purified ourselves from them.” Again, whether it is actual, literal genocide or character assassination, we’ve all participated in it somewhere along the continuum. Part of the blessing of story telling and of being human is that, even the most privileged person, by, let’s stay, the standards of Western economic success, will also have some major burden in their life, too. There is no one who is pure privilege. When you were talking about who are you responsible to, I think we are responsible to the story of reconciliation and liberation. And to whom much is given, much is required. All you have got to do with your privilege is ask, “What can I do with this power? How can I use this power to serve the common good?” All you have got to do with your lack of privilege is, “Who are the safe people whom I can ask for help?”

The fifth story is the victimization story. “I have suffered so much. Something was done to me and my people that is so egregious that it is the most important thing about us, and I’m never going to let go of this wound. I’m never going to let this wound heal. I’m going to hate and resent anyone who may have participated or have been connected to the people who participated in causing this wound, if you dare tell me that it would be better to reconcile.” Reconciliation does not mean embracing the people who caused immense suffering to you today by giving them a big hug and pretending that it doesn’t matter. It starts with agreeing not to take revenge, and maybe that’s where it ends. It may evolve further, but I cannot presume to tell anyone who has suffered that they should befriend the person who caused the suffering, because it’s morally right to do that. It may be. My impulse around that is I think it is psychologically better to move beyond revenge. Entire nations have been built on the victimization, if Northern Ireland had an 800-year-long civil conflict that involved the victimization narrative on both sides.

The last of the six stories is the accumulation narrative. “Once I have tried domination, revolution, isolation, purification, and victimization and found them lacking, I’m just going to buy a bigger sofa or some popcorn or a bigger house or I’ll invade a country. I’ll accumulate, and that will insulate me from having to feel connection or to feel the uncertainty of being in the world.”

All of these stories are an attempt to bring peace and security. They are all motivated, at some point, by a sincere or evolutionarily natural impulse. The problem is none of them work. They don’t produce peace and security. What they produce is separation: humans from each other, humans from the ecosystem, humans from God, and from love.

The seventh story’s way of dealing with power is what I just said. We audit ourselves for the power we have, whether we feel we have earned it or not. It is from that place that we serve the common good. We assess where we lack power, and it’s from that place that we look for support. It should ultimately be a beautiful, virtuous circle. The way I am looking at this at the moment, there are three of us. We are in a kind of triangle, and we can draw a circle around it. I know some of your needs, Tripp, and some of your needs, Brian, and lots of both of your gifts, and the relationship we have with each other. We get to serve each other’s good. That’s the way relationships should be between strangers, too, between people who have never met before, between people on one side of the planet and the other side of the planet. Another one of the gifts of right now is that we cannot deny this is a globally connected human race. We fall together or we rise together. In the seventh story of reconciliation, we are laying down power over people and seeing it instead as power with, power to serve.

We are not having revenge-based revolutions to overthrow bad people, execute and move on, but we are holding boundaries and injustices, willing to lay down our own lives down, not to kill anybody else, but to lay down my own life for the sake of the vulnerable, if that is what’s necessary. We are not isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. We may need healthy solitude and contemplation, but the point of that, as Charles Ives has said, is to leave this dimension and go into another dimension for a while, but then to come back, so that we can share the gift that we have received through being a mystic for a while.

The point is that for these other three stories for purification, victimization, and accumulation, it’s all about not lording it over other people or getting as much as we can for ourselves, but realizing that the self is not as important as we used to think it was.

We are cast members in a play that has seven billion other actors in it. I don’t know your lines. You don’t know mine. But we are in some scenes together. As a bottom line, if you’ve ever done theatre, Tripp, there are lots of ways to put on a play, but cast members killing each other is not one of them.

Rest and Reconciliation

Companions for the Journey



Designer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective. We are exploring how we imagine, design, and build the future together.

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Stephen Bau

Designer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective. We are exploring how we imagine, design, and build the future together.