The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

Last week we saw Charles Eisenstein speak at UNC-Chapel Hill on the subject of his latest book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.

He argues that we are living in a time between stories.  By “story” he means the overriding narrative that shapes how our culture conditions us to view and relate to the world. The “old story” is a story of separation, control and dominance.  The “new story” is a story of inter-being.  Whereas the old story is a narrative of competition and protection of self-interest, in the new story we are the totality of our relationships with everything else.  Recognition of the web of interrelatedness reveals, for example, that any act that hurts something in the world, hurts each of us as well in some way.  Likewise any act of compassion, generosity or forgiveness disrupts and subverts the old story of control, separation and domination.

I’m not doing justice to the fascinating talk, which went for a couple of hours.  If the subject sounds interesting, here’s a short TED talk I recommend.

11 comments on “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

  1. I don’t know, Bill. The end or lessening of personal self-interest? Or a collective relearning such that we redirect our self interests in more positive ways?

    The dream of utopia dates to the beginning. Isn’t this just a variation on the utopian dream?

    But I absolutely hope he’s right. And there is this: that some of us are working at changing the received story of food. I like the idea of our small farms as “new stories” erasing the old one.


    • Bill says:

      I picked up a copy of the book but haven’t read it yet. I think he would acknowledge being an optimist, but push back against a charge of utopianism. He’s presenting an alternative to the technological utopian vision. I’m pretty sure he’d agree that small farms are part of the new story (which he says is the same as the ancient story), although he attributes a lot of the old story’s problems to agriculture.


  2. Bob Braxton says:

    Did you find out the results of your thesis defense?


  3. El Guapo says:

    That’s an interesting premise – that we are in between stories.
    It feels more like we are nearing the climax of the “old” story, with the next dependent on that outcome.


    • Bill says:

      That’s a good way to put it EG. He argues that the old story is collapsing and since it provided the framework for our perception of the world, in this time between stories it can be hard to know what’s real. He sees a better story emerging, but plenty of people would interpret the collapse of the old story as the beginning of something worse, not something better.


  4. Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    I have been thinking about this “change in consciousness” idea for the past several weeks. It was presented to me by my teacher at plant medicine school.

    Judging by the amount of young people I keep meeting who are choosing to live closer to the land, the earth, their communities, I think perhaps a change is happening. While the mainstream media continues to feed us with stories of violence, doom, and gloom, and judging by the crap being produced for television viewing, I would think nothing has changed, or things continue to grow worse.

    But there is another reality, if a sublte one. History, ecology shows that it is life on the fringes that survive and thrive in times of chaos. The people on the fringes of society are the ones leading innovative lives. And I believe the “fringes” are growing.

    I have to hope for my young children, at any rate.


    • Bill says:

      Yes! Well said. The fringes are growing and beginning to thrive. I heard someone say once that in nature life tends to thrive on the “edges” (like edges of fields, edges of forests, edges of ponds/rivers). Life will also thrive, I think, on the edges of society.


  5. Well, that was a 22 minute, 45 second roller-coaster of thought and emotion. I’ll spare you the details, but while I listened I took a side trip to Brook Farm circa 1850s.

    I love the title and the notion of The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, My heart does, even if I think I may have gone beyond the edge of my own courage. But mine is just one heart. And anyway, it’s still listening, so there’s that.

    I think the most important idea is to keep the choir singing.


    • Bill says:

      Listening to his talk I felt like I was trying to drink water from a firehose. I’m looking forward to reading the book so I can (hopefully) absorb it better.

      I’m convinced that there is a more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, even if our heads keep telling us it isn’t.


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