08/28/2011 01:58 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Two Great Stories of the World

Recently, I have been on panels where people lament how the troubles of the world seem increasingly intractable. I've heard environmentalists suggest that evolution may have reached a dead end with regard to the human species. I've heard pained audiences decry political parties as well as social movements. I have found myself responding with ancient proverbs such as: "The great person allows universal imagination to work through them."

It's as if something quite old and truly resilient is required to face the dire array of modern problems, for most of modern life is arranged to take us away from ourselves. Not just from advertising suggesting that what we lack can be purchased, nor from the ever-growing number of clever distractions, but we also learn to abandon ourselves amidst expectations that the answers to crucial problems and solutions to great dilemmas must come from the world outside us.

Amidst radical environmental problems and massive changes throughout culture, it becomes easy to forget that there are two great and enduring stories found on Earth. One is the tale of the world writ large, the ongoing drama of creation and of destruction. The other involves the continuous and surprising story that arises from the dreams and longings, the inborn gifts and necessary frailties hidden within each individual soul.

We are not accidental citizens of a world gone wrong, not merely faceless members of an age group or statistical, biological blips without inherent meaning. Humans are living stories, each imbued with an inherent message and a meaning trying to find its way into the world. Each soul a living thread in the tale being woven as we speak, being shaped as we dream, being made anew each time we step more fully into the story trying to live through us.

No new idea and no old belief system can simply solve the dilemmas currently facing both nature and culture. Things have gone too far for that. Yet we abandon ourselves unnecessarily when we turn away from the stories already woven within us. We rescind the ancient and immediate heritage of living imagination that is laced into the body, cell by cell, and set within the bones of our collective memories. Neither wisdom nor genius, neither heroism nor love can be found except where the individual soul awakens.

Humans inherit a "narrative intelligence" capable of grasping the great dramas of this world. It can be only found by awakening to an inner story trying to live through us. As the world around us becomes more uncertain and less predictable, the inner story may be the only place to turn for any hint of security. The word security shares roots with "secret" as well as "cure." The way to affect the great drama of this world is to discover and live the story secretly seeded within one's soul.

The answers that sustain life and reveal meaning amidst the confusion come from within. The essential cure for what ails us hides within us. Until we know what story we came to life to live, we can't know how to aid the ongoing story of the world. This world is made of stories, each individual tale a part of an eternal drama being told from beginning to end, over and over again. As long as all the stories don't end at once, the world will continue.