The New Story Summit: A tale of knowing and unknowing

By Justine Huxley

I’ve just returned from the New Story Summit – a long overdue gathering of those involved in the global grassroots movement for systemic change. We came from all over the world, over 350 people from the fields of peacemaking, new economics, ecology, organisational change, community building, evolutionary biology and the arts.  There were many faces and names familiar to us at St Ethelburga’s –  Drew Dellinger, Charles Eisenstein, Polly Higgins, Satish Kumar, Jo Confino, and Jonathon Porritt to name but a few – also many others who though new to us were instantly familiar as members of the same global tribe.  The summit felt like an important moment.  It sold out almost as soon as bookings opened, and we arrived into a real sense of expectation that something meaningful or transformative was going to happen.


This was my first time at Findhorn – an eco-village and teaching centre that feels like a small island existing in a more compassionate future. The three founding members who arrived back in the 1960s transformed a barren coastal wilderness into luscious gardens, abundant vegetable patches and cool pine forests.  It now showcases a new way of life, a new relationship with the land, with nature, community and resources.  It was a real joy to eat delicious fresh food prepared with love, to walk on wide beaches under dramatic painted skies, to talk to so many engaged, inspiring people, and to participate in what seemed likely to be an historic moment in the birthing of this new story, by building a stronger sense of cross-disciplinary community.

The younger generation (calling itself ‘generation wake up’ or ‘generation transition’) were present in numbers and consciously brought to the forefront.  Looking at these young leaders of the future, has restored my sense of hope.  They are not weighed down by the mistakes and omissions of earlier generations, nor the need to convert a mainstream world that simply doesn’t listen.  They are born with the knowledge that we need a different basis for our society, with innate respect for life and with a huge passion for building that future without undue reference to the past – by just getting on with it.

‘Summit’ was the right choice of word for this event.  I felt as if I was standing on a mountain peak. Stretched out behind me was the landscape created by our elders – such as the 50 years of work it took Eileen and Peter Caddy to build the phenomenon that is Findhorn – and my own hard won years in service to this transition.  Before me, looking forward through the eyes of this younger generation, the unfolding of a future that is now so close we can see it on the horizon, like a city just a few days walk away, lit up by the rising of a new sun.  Perhaps it was naive of us to think we could do it faster.  We are in the mid point of a century of profound change, of paradigm shift.  Maybe it takes one hundred years to re-story human existence.   Seeing the potential of this emerging generation, perhaps our wisest move is to do everything we can to resource, support and empower them to go beyond the limits of what we have achieved and carry the baton into the next 50 years.


But what of the excitement and the sense of the conference as a full of transformative potential?  For me the biggest learning was about human limitation.  We came with such hope and expectation, full of ideas to share and enthusiasm.  Sadly, our expectations, concepts, ego-identities, attachments and need to be heard were also crowding in, cluttering up the space which had been so graciously prepared for us.  For all our talk about the Earth, the cosmos or the subtle realms – it seemed to me that we unwittingly kept our human selves firmly at the heart of things and once again failed to recognise that it is not about us, that we have to step out of the way if anything meaningful is to happen.

I climbed down from our summit view, deeply grateful for this week of beauty and inspiration, but also resolved in my view that we will get nowhere at all if we relate only to each other and to human ideas.  We all see clearly that the story of economic growth has sold our beautiful earth down the river.  But somehow we are so conditioned by this way of relating that even with all our sincerity, we still think and act as if this is a human story.  What I am left with is this:  The challenge before us is perhaps that the new cannot be born unless we allow empty space to be there with us, unless we protect that empty space with all our might, and get ourselves firmly out of the way.  I believe we need to learn how to collectively surrender to not knowing, to give up control and step into relation with Divine mystery, to the the sacred which exists within life and within the endless infinite nothingness beyond life.  We need a response that takes us beyond ourselves.


Halfway through our week, an anonymous summitteer came in the night to where we had collectively designed our community open space schedule of workshops and offerings, all arranged in a complex timetable using a vast number of coloured post-it notes.  Our night-time saboteur rearranged all the coloured notes, destroying our timetable, making a mockery of all our effort – and spelling out the words “WE DON’T KNOW!” to confront us the following day.  For me, that was the wisest and bravest act, holding up a clear mirror to our self-preoccupation.

Travelling home through the rolling hills and magnificent skies of Northern Scotland, I wonder at our dilemma.  We need to go beyond ourselves, and yet we behave as if we have only ourselves with which to get there.  It was good to gather on this summit, to know ourselves and know our limits.  Perhaps we were reminded of our smallness and our tendency to subtle forms of hubris.  And some of us at least, were driven – in the face of paradox and few other options – back to the simple practice of prayer and remembrance – of turning to something bigger than we are and confessing, “We don’t  know”.


With gratitude to the Findhorn Foundation for being such amazing hosts, and to all the participants for their inspiration and deep offering of community.

This content originally appeared on Justine Huxley’s blog