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The Stories We Tell

Words by Sola Adebiyi

Stories are a mental, emotional and spiritual communication interface between humans. Stories provide narratives that help us to see ourselves in each other. They help us to find inspiration in the trials and triumphs of others: so too are we able to find compassion in the unresolved trauma, grief, sadness and violence in humanity’s tales. Stories are carriers of our histories and cultures. They generate metaphors that inspire wisdom, compassion, heart strength, warrior courage, will and studious inquiry in ‘our’ story. They also generate faith, and faith is a transformative force.

Midwife, Guide & Destination

This is why story is such a powerful, essential and integral component of our work and the rites of passage journeys we facilitate. Story is The Midwife, ushering in the birth of a new way; The Guide pointing the direction of travel and The Destination providing the welcoming arms of Arrival and the wisdom of Next Steps… 

Rites of passage and its spouse Story are the parents of a new and dynamic potential, consciousness, emotional integration and cultural legacy. Together they bring the true meaning of education derived from ‘educere’: ‘to lead out’ (from within). So much so that the question begs why the natural transitions at school – from Year 6 to 7, 11 to 12, Year 13 to ‘life after school’ – not curated experiences, complete with tales of transition that are deliberate, sense-making and provide an atmosphere of homecoming? One can imagine an adult saying;

“Welcome to this new stage of life, let’s explore what this new identity brings for you, these things may be useful to guide you on your way and here are your responsibilities towards those coming behind you.”

In such a scenario young people organically develop multiple intelligences, as their experience navigates them through unchartered territories with the support of peers and elders. Would this be inimical to academic learning? I would argue no. I would argue that not publicly recognising these transitions diminishes potential genius, divorces academic attainment from empathy, success from compassion, the individual from community and misses a unique opportunity to turn youths’ attention to the wider world – the story in which they live. Does this result in a cultural paradigm in which people grow up without a sense of ‘their tribe’ to whom they feel a sense of belonging and care? 

Sadly I think so. This is why I am dreaming into, setting an intention for and sharing stories of an education system where ‘Rites of Passage’ are a norm for the western world in which we live. I want to see this for my children’s children and harness the power of education to project a brighter future. After all, it involves a process by which young people come to gain knowledge and power to impact the world as adults. Working backwards, we can only assume that the current realities of pollution, genocide and the infinite extraction of resources in a finite world are to be traced back, at least in part, to the educational paradigm and pedagogy underpinning it.

I envision a world in which we tell a different story. A story that embraces, modernises and makes relevant elements of ancient traditions from across the globe that connect each of us to our place and our people. A story where emotional maturity and unshakeable (connected to the whole) integrity are essential for public office…

Collectively visioning the future we long for should be an essential enquiry for those in the game of education, but it hardly gets a word in. Perhaps by embracing community-oriented rites of passage and through transformative storytelling we can create spaces that inspire people to ask the question: 

If it is not I to dream into a transformational future, then WHO is it? If it is not to be dreamed into NOW, then WHEN should it be?

Just imagine the impact of school children being guided to answer such questions as a normal part of their school day alongside their maths, literature and geography class. In fact, imagine if this line of enquiry was inherent within those classes, what then?

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