Ancient and Modern Cultural Stories
Picture this. You and five of your closest friends are trapped on a 500-ft massive block of a glacier off the coast of Alaska. Freezing, your teeth chattering, you wonder why you signed up for this getaway “mancation” without checking into the helicopter pilot’s credentials. Running out of gas was not on the agenda.
As you contemplate your impending demise, you hear a faint rumble growing louder. Suddenly, off in the distance, you spot another helicopter flying in your direction.
Salvation safely sets down 100-ft away on the ancient block of ice. From off in the distance you see a skinny man in a bundled up snow suit walking towards you holding a gas can high in his one hand. As he takes off his mask, you begin to recognize that goofy face – Jim Carrey? – before he speaks.
“Hi, I’m Jim Carrey. I heard you needed some gas!”
“Tom Cruise will be by later with some trail mix.”
Life’s Operating Manual
That story is the paraphrased beginning of Life’s Operating Manual by Tom Shadyac. Shadyac is the director of the original Ace Ventura. While away on a mind-clearing getaway weekend with Jim Carrey, they decided to throw down a once-in-a-lifetime moment on the unsuspecting hikers.
Despite the intro, the book is not about comedy. Tom went from living the Hollywood high-life with cars, mansions, and cash to living in the proverbial van-down-by-the-river. The van is a mobile home and this change of scenery was a choice. In his contemplative moments, Tom couldn’t reconcile taking so much wealth compared to other people working very hard, but struggling to get by.
Wolf of Fear and Wolf of Truth
The book is written in a unique style with a concept presented, followed by a dialogue between two sides of Tom’s brain – the wolf of fear and the wold of truth. What are the wolves? They’re based on a Native American myth about two sides of our personality that battle for control of our thoughts and actions. The fearful wolf lives with anger, ego, greed, resentment, and lies. The truthful wolf lives with appreciation, kindness, joy, love, compassion, and empathy. Which wolf wins the war for your mind?
The one you feed…
Shadyac traces many of the problems in our society to a change in our cultural story, which is a set of core beliefs we hold that is the lens through which we see the world. All our thoughts and actions are shaped by these stories. We don’t realize the effect they have on us and that we can make a choice about what to believe. Open your mind and consider whether you believe the modern or the ancient cultural story.
The Modern Cultural Story
- Mankind is separate from nature, born with the right to conquer the natural world.
- Man is separate from his fellow man.
- Human nature is flawed. Human beings are born aggressive, selfish, sinful, and bad.
The Ancient Cultural Story
- Mankind is part of the natural world and is utterly dependent on it for his survival.
- Man is not separate from nature, but connected to it, to the earth, and to all living things.
The modern story came into existence after the birth of agriculture. Before we were able to tame the land to extract reliable crop yields on a yearly basis, we were utterly dependent on nature for sustaining our species. With mastery of agriculture came the opportunity to write a new story. The native story kept mankind alive for 165,000 years or 94% of our history. The modern story came alive 10,000 years ago and has led to unprecedented population growth in our species.
Is that good? Not for nature.
Is agriculture bad? That’s debatable, but I’d avoid grains and sugars.
Is this sustainable? I don’t think so, but read the book, do some research, and judge for yourself.