I’m not sure that this post will do justice to this incredible book. It’s not often that you stumble across a life-changing book like this one, especially when you order it off the internet instead of getting it from the bookstore. Frankly, I just thought that the title sounded interesting, so I added it to my basket without even reading the synopsis. This week’s book is Change the Story, Change the Future by David C. Korten.
After almost 40 years (35 of which I have spent reading to some extent or another), I’ve learned to enter into books with low expectations. My sole expectation is that a book will be largely readable, though even then I’ve abandoned some as unreadable after a few chapters. So, I wasn’t expecting this to be a life-changing book when I picked it up.
It’s always nice to be wrong!
To understand why this is such an important book for me both personally and professionally, you need to understand a little bit about my background. I’ve grown up in a relatively affluent and comfortable country, though my grounding in a protestant denomination that tries to be socially responsible and justice-seeking means that I haven’t been comfortable with how society works. That being said, I also haven’t been comfortable with the story a distant sacred figure who drops in and out as they see fit. But these are the two primary stories that have shaped who I am, and as I grow older neither of them seem to fit properly. Korten rightfully asserts that until we can change the dominant stories that shape our society, we can never change our society.
Korten’s suggestion of a third story, one that worships neither money nor distant deities is one that I would have dismissed even a few years ago. What he calls the Sacred Life and Living Earth story has the potential to change how we perceive all of our actions. This story says that we are all products of, and essential components of a living earth. We are just one component in a series of components that requires us all to function for the well-being of the organism as a whole. We do this in the same way that our personal biomes, organs, and bacteria function for the well-being of our individual bodies.
In this story, we are an essential part of a larger organism to which we are infinitely and intrinsically connected. Because of this, our actions must be directed to the well-being of the whole, and not the well-being of the individual. When cells focus solely on their own well-being, we get cancer.
Instead of looking at the earth as a resource to be consumed in the pursuit of making money, we should be looking at it as a precious vessel in which we are contained. Damage to the earth will always end up damaging the organisms (including humans) that inhabit it.
I really love Korten’s suggestion that we are measuring the health of our societies in the wrong manner. Instead of measuring the health of the whole of society through Gross Domestic Product (GDP), he says we should be measuring the health of our societies through the health of the individual components. Not how many resources are produced and consumed in the pursuit of ever-growing profits, but rather how well people, communities, flora and fauna, the larger ecology and environment, and all of the other components that make up our societies are doing.
I know that I haven’t done justice to this book, and I don’t know that I can do justice through a review. I do know that YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!
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