05/15/2013 09:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Change Our Story: Poison the River, Part 2

For many thousands of years, most of life was a mystery. Still today it can feel pretty mysterious walking on an unlit country road. We created many (many, many) stories to account for the things we didn't understand. Unknown places were where the gods and the scary things lived.

Season's cycles were a mystery -- and then we domesticated plants. Animals were a mystery -- and then we domesticated animals. The stars and planets were a mystery -- and then we charted the heavens. Having looked outward, we started looking inward. Anatomy, psychology, quantum mechanics... Everything became "understood." Science was trying to prove that everything was measurable and could be named -- or it just wasn't "real."

For the past 150 years, change has come more rapidly. It's often called progress. From electricity, the telephone and broadcasting, to steam power, the assembly line and air travel. Throw in refrigeration and advertising and you've got a lot of things to adjust to. It's no wonder that the things on the planet involved in all this got a little off track. No wonder it's called progress and seemingly everyone wants in on it -- it feels pretty damn exciting.

But recent progress has given us something old again -- the ability to hear stories from the storyteller. That hasn't happened in about 500 years. The printing press was the first form of broadcasting. The first time the story was separated from the storyteller. Increasingly, our ability to relate to each other became more fragmented.

I think that's why texting has become so popular so quickly.

It used to be that it would take some time to get a response from someone unless you were face to face (which took some determination -- either on foot or by horseback). The telephone changed all that. For the first time, you could interrupt someone at any time and expect an immediate response to whatever your query. Unsettling to say the least. I'm not sure that our brains fully adjusted to that change in interaction.

Texting (as did email "before" it) returns us to the possibility of a considered response. Much like a letter once did.

The nuclear family? It's a myth -- part of the problem, actually.

It was brought about through modern convenience -- and home mortgages. At birth, we used to be passed around. Taken care of by people that loved us as we learned to trust -- mostly with our eyes. Bonds were formed at the very earliest age through eye contact and touch. Starting about 60 years ago, things started to change. All manner of things allowed the family to become more insular. I certainly remember making myself a TV dinner more than once.


This lessened the ability for most of us, you and me -- and Dick Cheney, among others -- to create the neural pathways that for millennia helped us understand our fellow man and be confident in safe, loving relationships. It wasn't perfect, but it was markedly different.

In the third installment: Can we turn this ship around?