How Stories Shape Our Culture

story book

What stories shape your life?

Take a moment to think about that.

We all live based upon stories. Collective stories are the basis of culture and personal stories are the basis of how we view ourselves as individuals.

Stories are the underpinnings of human reality. Humanity is built upon stories. Stories shape our culture, our lives and the way we perceive the world.

It doesn’t matter if it’s true or false, if a story is believed, it becomes a blueprint of reality.

Cultural Stories

Every culture has stories that act as the very basis for how people live their lives.

In ancient times, mythology shaped the way people viewed reality, the world around them, society and themselves.

Any religious culture is dominated by the stories of that religion. People’s whole lives, down to the finest detail, are dictated by those stories.

Our modern western culture is based on a combination of science, religion and history (his-story). Science is constantly updated, disproving older theories, while failing to explain the “why” questions of our reality. Most organized religions are distortions of spiritual truths for purposes of control. And his-story is merely the story told by the winners of wars.

These cultural belief systems are attempts at explaining truth, at best. And at their worst, they’re attempts at control and manipulation. I’m not saying that all of these are false; I’m saying that regardless of being true or false, these stories shape our experience of reality and every aspect of how we live our lives.

Let’s take the scientific paradigm as an example. According to this story (again, I’m not saying it’s necessarily true or false):

  • We are our bodies, or more specifically our brains.
  • We live on Planet Earth, which revolves around the sun, in an incomprehensibly large universe.
  • This universe started with the Big Bang (the Big Bang THEORY).
  • On Earth, we evolved from apes, growing smarter and more and more sophisticated, until we’ve dominated nature and now live in the wonderful culmination of all of that evolution and “progress.”
  • You see, this is a STORY, or the background program that we run our lives by. And that’s not even getting into the stories of history, money, work, relationships, purpose, pleasure and everything else that makes up our belief systems. These things determine how we perceive and interact with reality.

    Where does this story get us? Well, take a look at the world around you. Check out the “news.” If it seems a little disharmonious (which anyone with eyes can see), we have to start reevaluating the stories we’re living by.

    grand central station

    Your Story

    What stories are you telling yourself? What is your identity based on? What labels do you identify with?

    In the midst of the trend of collective stories, we have the personal stories we tell ourselves. These are our individual stories that shape the way we view and interact with the world.

    Let’s use a man named Henry as an example, whose personal story might look like this:
    I’m Henry.
    I’m a white man.
    I’m an American.
    I’m a Christian.
    I’m not good at math (because my third grade teacher told me that and I’ve believed her ever since).
    I’m good at fixing things (because my dad said I was when I fixed his truck).
    I’m an introvert so I don’t have many friends.
    My favorite color is blue.
    My favorite food is steak.
    I’m a car mechanic, so I’m not good with computers.
    I’m a lower middle class guy.
    I go to work every day, then come home, drink a beer and turn on the tv to relax at night.
    I don’t have time to eat healthy or work out.
    I’m a fan of the Tennessee Titans.
    I wear boots and flannels because I’m manly.

    Ok, you get the point. This is all a STORY. Almost all of those things could be dropped and changed instantaneously. Our friend Henry could literally have a completely new life tomorrow, if he chose to.

    Programming and patterns are incredibly hard to break for us humans. But simple awareness of the stories we tell ourselves puts us in the position to consciously choose what our stories are.

    So what stories are you telling yourself? What identities are you carrying with you day in and day out? What patterns do you have? What are you building momentum towards?

    Gain some awareness of the stories you’re telling yourself. Only then can you choose to change your life for the better.

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    Creating New Stories

    We can create new stories in each moment.

    It is a choice. But you have to first be aware to even know that you have a choice.

    We can tell new tales and shape reality in our own way.

    What do you want out of life? What is your purpose? What’s on your bucket list? Who do you want to be?

    Be open and willing to change.

    Find your vision and start working towards that. Only tell yourself stories which help to create that vision of yourself.

    The Power of Fiction

    The importance of stories is why I love fiction so much. Whether reading or writing, fiction helps to reshape our world.

    Truths which exist beyond the limits of our collective analytical mind are able to be conveyed through fiction, metaphor and myth. Paradigm-shifting truths are often expressed in this way. Just take a look at any sacred text or brilliant piece of poetry.

    Literary works can cut through and transcend cultural biases and blindness, giving the reader a taste of a completely “novel” reality (see what I did there?). It allows one to see outside of the box they’ve existed in their whole life, and presents the opportunity to step outside.

    This is why I read and write a lot of fiction. If we change the stories we tell, we change how our world is shaped.

    Want to get your hands on an example of a paradigm-shifting story?

    I just published a new book, Ralphie’s Account of Planet Earth.

    It’s a story written from the perspective of a dog, told in a journal-like format.

    And the twist is that dogs aren’t just dogs. They’re actually multi-dimensional superbeings checking out Earth and humanity.

    This story will stretch your mind, provide you with insights, entertain you, make you laugh and a lot more. It’s available for both paperback and Kindle.

    Get your paws on it here: Ralphie’s Account of Planet Earth

    Let’s reshape our world.

    – Stevie P
     

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    Nothing is Impossible (A Very Short Story)

    diving board short story

    As a tribute to my father’s birthday today, I’d like to share a (very) short story from my book Momentous about a magical moment we shared. Happy Birthday Dad!


    Nothing is Impossible

    I looked up at the diving board. It was a proud blue piece of art that stood eight feet above the water.

    The sun was shining brightly overhead as I observed a young man bounce off of the beautiful blue plank and execute a graceful swan dive, landing in the deep pool with a small splash.

    Looking up at my dad, I curiously asked, “Is it possible to do a double backflip off of the diving board?”

    Without hesitation, he looked at me with a reassuring smile and confidently replied, “Nothing is impossible.”

    A sense of empowerment rippled through my consciousness. It was a feeling so profound that it transcends time and space. And I feel it as I type this.

    I didn’t do a double-back flip that day, or any day for that matter (except on a trampoline once). Yet that moment created a life-altering, paradigm shift within me.

    The real takeaway is not the act, but the message it conveys… The only limitations you have are those you place upon yourself.


    You can get your hands on Momentous by clicking the image below:

     

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    The Power of Fiction

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Fiction quote

    Bold statement: Fiction can be a more effective teacher than nonfiction.

    The epics, the classic myths, the primordial fables, the transcendent archetypes and the phenomenon of story have all been omnipresent undertones of human culture since time immemorial.

    Fiction has the unique ability in which one can use words as arrows of intention to penetrate the infinite dimensions of abstraction. In other words, truths which exist beyond the limits of our collective analytical mind are able to be conveyed through fiction, metaphor and myth.

    The deepest truths are often expressed in this way. Just take a look at any sacred text or brilliant piece of poetry. If they were to be written in a strictly analytical fashion, it would be confined to a sliver of interpreted reality. But with fiction, the words conform to the unique consciousness of the reader. They act as a range of possibility to be decoded subjectively, not a rigid pillar of force-fed predeterminacy.

    Literary works can cut through and transcend cultural biases and blindness, giving the reader a taste of a completely “novel” reality (see what I did there?). It allows one to see outside of the box they’ve existed in their whole life, and presents the opportunity to step outside.

    Along with being a vehicle for consciousness expansion, fiction comes with a whole host of other benefits as well…

    The Benefits of Reading Fiction

  • Improves brain connectivity
  • Increases empathy (and better relationships as a direct result)
  • Reduces stress
  • Enhances memory
  • Increases imagination
  • Expands vocabulary
  • Enhances creativity
  • Increases happiness
  • Enhances focus
  • Helps you be yourself (instead of conforming because the weight of social pressure is released when reading fiction)
  • Helps with approaching and overcoming obstacles (the influence of the hero’s journey)
  • Sources:
    The Surprising Power of Reading Fiction
    7 Benefits Of Reading Literary Fiction You May Not Know

    Stephen King Fiction quote

    How You Can Help Support Fiction

    Speaking of fiction, I recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for my new novel Sozwik. CLICK HERE to view the campaign and provide your support.

    Expand your mind with the wisdom of fiction, embrace the power of story and dare to dream.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!
     

     

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    The Tigers and the Strawberries (An Old Zen Story)

    tiger-70009_640

    There’s an old Zen cone (parable) that goes a little something like this…

    A man was walking through the jungle, when he spotted a tiger. The man immediately fled, but the tiger gave chase. Approaching a cliff, the man saw only one option… A hanging vine. He jumped off of the cliff and grabbed the vine, hanging on for dear life.

    The tiger came to the edge of the cliff, snarling.

    Just as the man thought he was in the clear, he noticed another tiger prowling below.

    And then, if things weren’t difficult enough, the man then saw two mice above him (one black, one white) gnawing away at the vine.

    In this state of impending doom, the man looked over his shoulder to the sight of a strawberry patch on a ledge, at arm’s length.

    The man reached over, plucked a strawberry and ate it. It was the best damn strawberry he ever had.

    strawberries-55303_640

    The symbolism of this tale is powerful…

    The tiger at the top of the cliff represents the past.

    The tiger at the bottom represents the future.

    The mice represent time, ticking away.

    And the only thing we truly have is the present moment. Savor it.

    “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” -Eckhart Tolle

     

    Life is short.

    Enjoy the strawberries.

    -Stevie P!