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OLD PARADIGMS & NEW BEGINNINGS

Great narratives of both fiction and non-fiction capture us because of their dynamic characters: They fight, they struggle, they change shape. They learn things, and they grow. Scout Finch, Maya Angelou, Ebeneezer Scrooge, Malcolm X, Siddhartha Guatama, Gru, and two on whose inspiration I have leaned heavily over the last few years: Steven Universe and Moana. Their arcs is the stuff of every great memoir. This arc is why we tell stories at all -- to remind ourselves and each other what we are capable of -- that it won't kill us to compost old paradigms and grow into new ones.  

Children's stories are full of static characters that don’t really evolve. That's why we call them "static". When they do evolve, they become dynamic. The reason children’s stories are full of flat, static characters, is because they are simplistic, and easy to understand. Captain Hook is flat, and static, as is Peter Pan. They really only reinforce each other, and the good/bad binary in which they exist. The story is about the battle between them. There are a lot of “classic” stories that exist in these types of universes, like Star Wars, Superman and Harry Potter. The good guys win and the bad guys lose, and it must be that way ad nauseum. Without this polar binary of "good" and "bad" there would be no story in these types of static universes.

 

The Grinch on the other hand is a dynamic character. He starts out believing he lives in a static universe, of good and evil. He, of course, very happy to be evil because he believes he has figured out how to dupe the dopes in Whoville, take their cheer, and make them miserable. But of course, in the middle of that plan, Christmas morning dawns on him laboring a giant bag of purloined presents up a hill and he hears the Whos singing below him. In that moment, he realizes he can’t take from them what they have; and that changes him. The Grinch moves from understanding the world in a static way (me vs. you, winners-and-losers) to a dynamic way (collectives, collaborations, non-zero-sums). He has an insight, which for an instant allows his former static paradigm to fall away. This is how it really works. When we allow our conditioning to unravel, we have the capacity for a kind of love that is unimaginable before we are able to experience it. And what we think will kill us saves our very lives. 

 

I wear a necklace that I don't take off -- three connected hearts in a line. The necklace has its own story for another time, but this symbolism goes way beyond sappy Holiday stories. Dynamism creates love, understanding, collaboration, evolution and liberation. It literally makes our hearts grow up and out. 

 

The paradigm of the static universe creates othering, boxes, binaries, and ultimately violence against self and other. It binds our hearts, rather than setting them free. It is unnatural and derived from a simplistic, flattened understanding of our big, beautiful, complex and complicated world. 

Now, obviously The Grinch is also a fantasy. While it is truer than the static universe, it is also too simple in a way that can be damaging -- Here in the real world, people do care when you steal their stuff, even if you bring it back, and even if their stuff isn’t really the point. Many of them would not immediately invite you to sit at the head of their table and cut the roast beast, which would be an absolutely healthy choice.

 

While changes-of-heart happen in an instant, it still takes a long time to integrate that moment of insight into the real world. Integration, healing and liberation are non-linear. Changes-of-heart are peaks, and peaks fade. The work gets harder as we descend. We have to be willing to stay with it, even when we can't remember what that peak felt like -- when we contract and snap back to the static mindset, wondering if we are the fools, the dopes, who allowed ourselves to get duped after all.  (It can really feel that way, right?!)

 

On the flipside, saying sorry, or having a change-of-heart doesn’t cut us loose from acknowledging the responsibility we have for the damage we caused while our hearts were three sizes too small. That leaves out the beautiful transformative stage called repair, and repair is what really fortifies relationships of all kinds. This is what actually gets us a heartfelt invitation to cut the roast beast - and it takes time, forgiveness, and accountability. 

The real trouble is, the fantasy has it backwards. The change-of-heart is the first step, not the last. And in a dynamic universe, there’s no telling what could happen next. If there are no good guys and no bad guys (which there are not) then we're all here just trying to figure it out together (which we are).  If there are no winners and no losers,  we win when all heal together. We win when we continue to become more dynamic, and hold others in their ability to be dynamic. Contrary to popular thought, people can heal and change when they allow old paradigms to fall away. I wouldn't dedicate my life to this path if I didn't know that to be absolute truth.  

 

If The Grinch were a real person, he would probably wake up the day after Christmas with a vulnerability hangover because that is what happens when we open up and we're not used to doing it. In the real world, The Grinch would definitely struggle with learning about love, connection and togetherness. He would try, and he would mess up. He would still have to continue to choose practice on a daily basis. Some days he would get there, and others he wouldn't. Some days some of the Whos would have open hearts to The Grinch, and some days some of them wouldn't. This is the reality of reality, and we have to know how it works. 

 

While the fantasy speeds up the process, it doesn't get the process wrong. It does happen like that, it's just not instantaneous. It takes heart, patience, practice and grace to shed an old paradigm and integrate a new one. Sure, it's harder than the fantasy makes it out to be, but it is also 1000% possible. More than totally possible, it is the design: Evolution, expansion and the falling away of old paradigms is how it actually works because we do not live in a static universe. Without getting in our own way (which we don't do on purpose) we would shed our metaphorical skin like snakes, without having to fear it all. It would be natural and welcomed. That is how the operating system is built. Unfortunately,  as humans, we resist this process and resistance hurts - it hurts us, the people we love, and the future we could be creating together. We resist not because we want to, but because we don't understand. 

 

There is nothing to fear. Dissolving old paradigms is stunning, and it only gets more exquisite the deeper you get. The process of shedding can be painful, it's true, but what actually hurts worse is staying in the old paradigm for which you know you are too big, because you are afraid. What actually hurts worse is feeling stuck. What actually hurts worse is resisting the call to create something better for yourself, and through you, Us. 

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