A poet is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable searching after fact and reason. The art of negative capability.JOHN KEATS
What stories do you carry around in your head in need of revising?
Jim Loehr speaks to the importance of leaders knowing their stories: “Stories impose meaning on the chaos; they organize and give context to our sensory experiences, which otherwise might seem like no more than a fairly colorless sequence of fact. Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.”
Stories are essential. They help us to deal with the complexities of human experience that cannot be understood by the rational mind alone. They provide the means by which to live with contradiction, compromise, conflict and even crisis. The challenge is that our narratives need revising; they need a fuller, more challenging, more honest telling.
We cannot make sense of the present chaos, unless we confront the inadequate telling of our stories. The “facts” are no longer so clear. Whose land do we really live on? What makes us good? Why do we believe our telling of the story is accurate? To live these questions, we must learn the art of negative capability. We must become “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable searching after fact and reason.” It is then that our remembering is opened to engage the whole of our stories.
The reality is that all of us carry within ourselves false stories. Unless we take the time to name our false narratives, we will likely impose our biases, blindness, and fears upon others. “Unhealthy storytelling is characterized by a diet of faulty thinking and, ultimately, long-term negative consequences… hardening of categories, narrowing of the possibilities, calcification of perception (Loehr).” False stories literally reconfigure our neural pathways: both on an individual and collective level.
LIVING FROM STRENGTH
We cannot live from strength when our beliefs are rooted in a flawed understanding of self and world. Intimacy, generatively, and integrity are all born of claiming the whole of our stories. Only as we engage the less savory parts, will we come to accept the reality that we carry within us both weakness and strength, good and bad. It is then that we discover compassion, which opens to a future beyond the present impasse.
This requires an emptying of what we think we know. The koine Greek word kenosis speaks to the emptying of self as the source of all true power. With kenosis, we come to understand, how we use power to afflict or set free: the choice remains ours. Much of how we use power depends upon how well we have emptied ourselves. Kenotic power is not like ego power.
Kenosis leads us beyond a focus on personal survival to an emptying that becomes the means by which healing enters this world. We come to understand that our integrity is measured by the degree to which we bear wholeness into the lives of others and honor creation. This is not just words, it is the power to transform. Now that is a story that I want to be part of!
So, how are you being called to empty yourself for the sake of the world? Take some time this next week to practice kenosis. What false narratives are you being called to risk that together we might live?
Never forget that emptying is prelude to filling!