Friday, December 14, 2012

Winning the Story Wars

Jonah Sacks

For some time I have been thinking about creating a website to give expression to my particular perspective and versions of practice in regard to the Buddha’s dharma, philosophy, and meditation. Because the Internet has become such a sprawling “Tower of Babel,” my main concern was that I produce something unique and helpful. However, I am now beginning to realize that I will also need to tell a compelling story.

In light of this, I picked up Jonah Sachs’s book, Winning the Story Wars. Sachs, an internationally-known storyteller, author, designer, and entrepreneur, has been centrally involved in the creation of a number of entertaining and notable educational resources on the web, such as The Story of Stuff, a critique of modern consumerism, and The Meatrix, a critique of factory farming. Winning the Story Wars is a fun, fast read that covers a lot of ground. His main premise is that as human beings our lives are made up of stories. In the past these were largely religious and philosophical ones; however, many of these old stories are in decline, and this creates what he calls a “myth gap.” People hungry for meaningful stories are  being deeply influenced by the de facto alternative, marketing. Unfortunately, for the last several decades, advertising and marketing have become a “dark art” where the main theme is inadequacy: make people feel inadequate about themselves, and then provide them with the magic product that will complete them.

From here Sachs guides the reader through a series of exercises to figure out who they are—their real values and core message. He also helps readers figure out who they are speaking to and how to speak to them truthfully and in a way that will interest them, particularly on an archetypal level. Sachs closes with the admonition that whether we are part of an organization or working as an individual, we must follow through on the values and vision we have just communicated. Sachs’s hope is to transform the once “dark art” into a medium that can be used to empower us worker-consumers to become citizens again and to take active responsibility for the world.

- Ken

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