Living A Truly Great Story: Being A Part of it All

Russell Delman   January 2024

Living A Truly Great Story: Being A Part of it All

Are we isolated individuals, perhaps small, segregated communities, who are apart FROM the unfolding of life on this planet or are we collectively a part OF a truly great story of evolving humanity? In my view, for our future to be fulfilling, maybe even for our survival, we need to commit to a truly great story.


We humans have numerous conscious and unconscious beliefs. These are the most powerful influencers on our behavior. More than rational thought or strong emotions, our beliefs hold dominant sway over our actions. Think of the horrific violence in the world and notice the potent belief systems underling all positions. Some of these beliefs might be life-giving (e.g. people deserve freedom, children should be cared for, etc.), some incredibly destructive (e.g. my God is the only true God, my country or my people are the chosen one’s, etc.). Beliefs become justifications for actions.

My interest here is not debating, analyzing, or judging belief systems. I am wanting to name a belief, often unconscious, that will determine the future of our individual and collective lives. Naming this might encourage self-reflection for each of us.

In Brief

What does it mean to be part of a larger story, a truly great story? Historically, this was the domain of religion, yet we often see the most alienating, destructive behaviors preformed in allegiance to a religious belief.

Similarly, often the larger story was embedded in the superiority of a particular country, race, tribe, or gender. People would form fixed self-identities around one or more of these and feel justified in dominating others.

My core belief is that unless our story includes ALL life it is not grand enough. Individually and collectively, we must consider all human life of equal value.  Also, our interconnectivity with animals, plants, minerals, and the earth itself asks us to root all decisions in warm-hearted caring for and protection of our shared Life.

From this basis, it still might mean there are situations in which we take a life to protect/support life. When needed, this is always with a heavy heart.

In this view, while we might disagree about specific behaviors, the fundamental concern for life is not compromised. It is impossible to live without killing – just think of the microorganisms we destroy every day and the destruction that comes in just living modern life. The direction is not asceticism but toward greater caring. The intentions of our decisions and actions make the difference:

– If we choose to eat animals, we do it with respect and gratitude. Native cultures throughout the planet modeled this kind of gratitude-based relationship.

– If a government in time of war decided that it is essential to bomb a building to protect life, they would consider: “if my own innocent citizens were also inhabitants, would I still bomb this building”? Seeing all life of equal value does not eliminate forceful action, it asks for a greater, more painful moral reckoning.

– If for the social order, we need to incarcerate people, we do so with the intention of educating and healing.

In the old story, we divided ourselves into groups to which we had allegiance. It was an us-against-them, a zero-sum view – if you win, I lose. In the newer “great story” we are caretakers of all life. We are all “us” there is no “them”.

Some would call this naive, given all the destructive forces that abound. I would say, with so many forces dedicated to destruction and “othering”, this is the only belief that might lead to our survival and fulfillment.

A Truly Great Story

Imagine that:

– We, you, and me, are all part of an ancient and futuristic process in which consciousness is unfolding.

– Our individual journeys are an essential contribution to that unfolding

– The direction of this unfolding is toward the individual and collective experience of mutual care and support also called Universal Love.

– We are cells of a greater body, each offering our unique capacities, and all devoted to healing any confused forces that are mistakenly working against this unfolding (ironically, even these forces/beings might be essential to the great unfolding).

Imagine that right at this moment you and I are part of this ongoing journey! While these thoughts have been expressed in similar and divergent ways, something like this is confirmed by: deep meditation, psychedelic journeys reported from many cultures, near death experiences and experience-based teachings various great spiritual teachings. Personally, my deepest experiences of meditation and psychedelic journeys from many years ago endorse this story.

Love Thy Enemy

One needn’t be Christian or Buddhist to hear the clear teachings from both Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha asking us to bring a caring heart to all life. When Jesus Christ said that it was not enough to love your friends but essential to also “love thy enemy”, he presented one of the most difficult and life altering views I can imagine. In its essence it says: there are no beings worthy of exiling from your heart. These are not just pretty words but a requirement for our collective consciousness. Imagine that this teaching is an essential part of the great unfolding.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

The truly great story expands our ordinary sense of “love” into unconditional care for life. There are evil actions that must be repudiated. We must stand up for all that is life-giving and courageously name and thwart anti-life forces. We must honestly, courageously, and relentlessly include whomever we have cast out of our hearts. We also do our best to understand the forces motivating their behaviors, knowing that suffering begets suffering. This core practice I call “loving awareness”. 

Learning to love is another way of describing this life-journey. This is really hard at times. Almost every day, upon hearing a story of abuse or from a painful interaction, my heart constricts. Our most intimate relationships are a potent classroom for exploring the pain of closing our hearts. “Loving Awareness” is the practice of awakening to this closing and caring for all the suffering that is created by the constriction. This includes caring for the humbling inability to authentically open to love in certain moments. The key is to adopt a truly great story. Our personal journey is not just for us but serves a much larger purpose.

Another Great Story 

Imagine that you come to recognize that the human brain, human consciousness, has been evolving since endless time so that we could truly be awakened.

In this context, awakened means to know and know that you know. It is more than conscious of self, it has a connected, self-reflective quality. This is the path of Zen. To be fully present in the here and now, presencing the entirety of the moment. This means not only aware of self but also aware of the others, in fact the whole situation, or the moment in which you are living. This too is a Great Story, in which you are connected to self and beyond self.

To paraphrase the great Zen master Dogen,
“To study the self (to awaken to self) is to go beyond the self, to let go of one’s separate self”.  We are awakened in our interactions with life!

Small stories, those that lead to feeling “apart from” the flow of Life, lead to suffering. Today, as we witness the pandemic of the diseases named – alienation, narcissism, sectarian justifications of cruelty – standing up for a truly great story is more essential than ever. If my “great story” does not resonate, find one that does. The hallmarks of a great story are Inclusivity, Kindness, Caring, in a word, Love.