I have a confession to make. To you dear reader and to all of the people I’ve worked with over the past decade to grow NewStories and the very idea that we, as humanity, can create a new story for our next stage of evolution.
I did not invite the Thirteenth Faerie. And I hope you’ll forgive me.
Back in 2011, when Duane Elgin, Jeff Vander Clute and I first created the Great Transition Stories Wiki, we brought together the largest meta stories we could think of in myth, history, and biology that could help us understand the mechanisms of successful and transformational change. We focused on the great developmental stories of birth, growing up, initiation, and transformation that give hope and guidance when we can’t see the future and it looks like things are collapsing around us.
But I refused (and well maybe I wasn’t the only one) to let the Thirteenth Faerie’s story of death and destruction to be on that list. It wasn’t just neglected, or not invited–it was actively rejected. In fact, trying to find alternatives to her story was my primary motivation to create Great Transition Stories in the first place and, before that, to take on the presidency of NewStories.
In the tale of Sleeping Beauty, the King and Queen give birth to a beautiful princess whom they name Aurora, which means light, like the northern lights, a radiating force of love energy. And, as she grew, she became this love-light. However, in creating the festival that was to be her christening, the King and Queen made a mistake. They invited twelve of the most beautiful faeries to bestow blessings of strength and courage and good health upon the princess. But they neglected or decided not to invite the Thirteenth Faerie.
No force of nature or the psyche likes to be left out. As my good friend and mentor Hal Stone says of the Greek gods (symbols of the deep archetypal parts of ourselves): “You must honor all of them. You can have favorites, but don’t leave anyone out. If you do, that’s the one that will come out of the unconscious and get you.” And so she did. The Thirteenth Faerie crashed the party and laid a curse on the princess that on her sixteenth birthday she would prick her finger and die.
My passion in working for NewStories has been to offer another vision of how we could move through this Great Transition and be on this planet in respectful relationship with each other and thrive in our communities. But I have been in denial of the Thirteenth Faery, the one who brings the curse of death, slightly mitigated by the Twelfth Faerie to deep sleep or unconsciousness. I have not wanted to accept Cataclysm, Apocalypse, or Disaster as viable models for Earth’s next step, or for our evolution as humanity. I cringe at the images of those massive colliding armies so prevalent in everything from the Revelation of John, through the wars and revolutions of the past two centuries, to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Hunger Games. Even Narnia ends with an enormous battle of two opposing forces, one named good and the other evil, clashing together on an open field.
I was damned if I was going to let her story of death of the beautiful be the way that humanity transforms itself. I can hear myself ranting: “No! No! No! There must be a better story. Do we really have to annihilate each other in rivers of blood in order for a few of us go to a Golden Land in another dimension that is disembodied and separate from our Earth? Or decimate the planet so a few rich guys can play king of the mountain at the expense of everything and everyone else? Really!?”
But for all my trying to avoid it, Cataclysm is here. Armageddon is ubiquitous. Disaster is all around us, looking all too often like the plagues of the Apocalypse. The forces are polarizing on the field of the world, arming for a mighty battle. A friend of mine in Europe feels a Third World War is inevitable, a sentiment echoed in January 2018 by an Economist cover story “The Next War.” Some feel we’ve already been attacked in a cyberwar that we are losing because it is mostly invisible to us. And still I scream out “No! No! No! Surely there must be a better way.”
What if there’s not? What if that’s the story we know the best, have most deeply embedded in us through millennia and have seen played out over and over again in our history, our myths of conquest, and our seemingly endless dystopian blockbuster movies. I have to be able to see that I could die in this battle, that all my values may be frozen and despised by the Ice Queen of Narnia. Cruelty and greed are rampant. Nuclear war is again on the table. Must we kill almost everyone else for our god of consumption?
However much I want us to find a way to go through change well, so that we survive, so that our species comes in right relationship to the planet, I have to face and accept that we may not choose a path of success. Or, perhaps, that success may not look like what I would wish from my perspective. It’s possible, and it’s been said, that from the perspective of Gaia, our planet, the elimination of humans as a failed experiment may be a good option. I can only wish and work to have it not be so, while finding a way, within myself and those I love, to be present with whatever the outcome is. New growth springs from catastrophic fires, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. So, too, may the thirteenth faery have a place in our evolution, a role in moving our collective story forward.
“Up she rises, ostensibly to avenge an insult but in reality to thrust the story forward and keep the drama moving. She becomes the necessary antagonist, placed there to show that whatever is ‘other,’ opposite and fearful, is as indispensable an instrument of creation as any force for good.
Perhaps we need all to ask ourselves how the 13th Faerie plays out in our own lives. How do we use disasters in our own life for change?