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Rewriting the Story of Who We Are: A Shift to Conscious Choice

Written by Lisa Reagan   
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 00:00
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America celebrated its first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. That year also marked the publication of my favorite children’s book, The Wump World, by the beloved writer and illustrator Bill Peet. I discovered The Wump World in a mountain of books my mother helped my little brother and me haul home from our local library—our revered and preferred source of entertainment in the very early ’70s! After my first read, I searched anxiously for The Wump World every time we visited the library, looking forward to sitting for the umpteenth time with the story of the “Pollutians,” who invaded the pristine, green world of the furry, doe-eyed “Wumps,” with their ideas of industrial progress. In the simple, colored-pencil illustrations, the hapless Wumps retreated into underground caves until the Pollutians finally declared to their leader that they could not live on such a polluted planet anymore; they were sick from their lifestyles and had to find another planet.

After the Pollutians took off in their spaceships, the Wumps emerged from their caves to a “dead” landscape of concrete buildings, smoke-filled skies and paved-over earth. The book’s message about pollution did not escape me or my first grade classmates, as most of us displayed “Turn Off Your Lights” stickers on our light switches and watched Iron Eyes Cody, the Native American in the Keep America Beautiful commercial, cry as he overlooked a littered cityscape. It wasn’t the book’s obvious message, that pollution was bad and we needed to do our part to stop it, that I found fascinating. It was the last page that held my rapt attention: A solitary Wump, staring at a sidewalk, where a single, green-leafed plant had pushed its way through a small crack in the landscape of gray rubble. Perched on a crumbling wall, the Wump’s unmistakably happy smile seemed to impart a secret…or a promise.

It was this last page that I would race to each time I read The Wump World, as if each time I was looking for reassurance that the Wump, the leaf and I shared—the secret knowledge that something else was true, something greater and more real than the passing story of the Pollutians and their irrational dedication to industrial progress at all costs, even their own health. What was that something else, whose power would eventually heal the Wump’s world?

At this moment in time, four decades later and on the heels of the largest environmental disaster in human history, it feels like much of humanity is staring at the last page of The Wump World and wondering, with no way off the planet (though some are working on it), how do we begin to enter into a relationship with the consciousness, the vitalism and the healing force of Life represented by this humble green leaf? How are we going to heal our world and our on-loan, animated Earth suits—our bodies—that depend upon the health of the Earth? Can we find the will to discard the limiting, old story of “we’re Pollutians and this is just what we do,” and instead write a new story, one that features human beings tapping into their innate potential, pursuing conscious relationships with all of Life and working together to co-create a healthy world?

Why is it imperative that humanity create a new story? Because “our story”—a story created and told by humans, mostly out of habit—represents our view of the world. And worldviews create worlds.

What is needed to root out the old, unsustainable view? Perhaps identifying some of the assumptions embedded within the old story would help us better recognize its influence in our individual and collective lives:

  • Growth is good; more is better.

  • Economic wealth is the truest sign of progress.

  • The “market” is the most reliable measure of value.

  • Individual selfishness serves the common good.

  • We live in a world of scarcity.

  • Humans are superior to other creatures.

  • The Earth is ours to exploit.

  • The world can be divided into “us” and “them.”

  • People are intrinsically bad.

  • Technology—or God—will save us.

What if current science had already blown past this tired, old tale? What if you didn’t need a corporate-sponsored study to tell you what to believe because you could go straight to the source? Can this be a part of our new story: direct knowledge?