Monday, 6 June 2011


a Moment for Wisdom…


“Change the story and you change perception; change perception and you change the world.”

Jean Houston


Personal Wisdom:

What is your “story”?

What parts of your story get in your way?

What parts prevent you from deeply connecting with others?

What parts of your story represent obsolete

What would it take for you to change your

Societal Wisdom:

What is the “story” of your society? Is it functional or dysfunctional?

a Moment with Sharif…


I could run an all-day workshop on this quote…

Everything you “see”, everything in your world, is filtered through your “story”. It’s your story that gives meaning to that which you see. (And, as we’ve discussed before, it actually allows – or prevents – you from perceiving important aspects of the world.)

For my former neighbor, a 97 year old white woman in North Carolina, daughter of a Confederate colonel, having me as her next door neighbor was like having a dog or a mule buy a house and move in. It took her years to change her perception… BUT SHE DID. She went from not ever speaking to not ever shutting up! When we moved, she said, with tears in her eyes, that we were the best neighbors she ever had. Which, given her 100+ years on the planet, was saying a lot. Big change.

This is important: it was not “education” or even “exposure” that changed in her. It was her story. It was her rationale, her explanation of “how the world works”. Her story (given to her by her father) that I was not human and could not possess intelligence or a soul, conflicted with the evidence of her eyes. When faced with something that conflicted with her story, she had only two choices: reject me, or reject the story. It is so much easier, so comforting to keep one’s story! But, over time, the inconsistencies start piling up.

Asking someone to change their story is like asking them to die. In fact, its easier to ask them to die. People identify with their stories so much that they believe their story is equivalent to the Self. People gladly go off to war, kill other people, believe absurdities, burn books… anything, rather than give up an obsolete story.

This, then, is the challenge of our times.  To let go of our obsolete, outmoded stories and thereby change the world.

Easier said than done! It’s easy for us to see how the story of the Other does not work, how it binds them into old, obsolete thinking. It’s much harder for us to see how our own stories do exactly the same. (In fact, it’s hard to see our own stories at all.)

I was recently sitting with a group of people, all of whom were quite familiar with my work. The conversation veered into politics… and it was interesting how quickly the old “Progressive” paradigm jumped up. “We have to support Obama, because we have to be afraid of Palin!” That is the Old Political Story: My Group (the good guys) will save you from the Other Group (the bad guys, the source of all evil). It’s the game, the story – both political parties play it, they both profit from it. It is the recipe for paralysis.

We have to GIVE IT UP if we are going to change our world. We have to stop identifying
ourselves with the politics of Woodrow Wilson, and come up with a NEW politics, based on the conditions here in the 21st Century.




All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.


This entry was posted in A Moment for Wisdom and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Monday, 6 June 2011

  1. Maka'ala says:

    Aloha Sharif,
    My has been forwarding your wonderful messages to me for some time now. I really enjoy them and your energies. Yesterday Carol Hart and Jane Ely from Kauai left a message on my cell with your tel. no. So I will call you tonight after my class. I am in Prtld till tomorrow night teaching a Mana Lomi class. My cell is (541) 301-2896. I lok forward to speaking with you as we are on similar paths. Mahalo. Maka’ala

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *