By Drew Dellinger
Forty years after Thomas Berry’s “The New Story,” new generations are seizing on the power of narrative.
I was sitting in a classroom in Assisi, Italy, with one of the leading environmental thinkers of our time, and he was talking about the power of story. “It seems that we basically communicate meaning by narrative,” he said. “At least that’s my approach to things: that narrative is our basic mode of understanding.”
In that summer of 1991, Thomas Berry (1914—2009) was a 77-year-old sage; a Catholic priest—though never quite comfortably—a cultural historian, and a scholar of world religions, retired from teaching but at the height of his intellectual and prophetic powers. His central focus was addressing the deep roots of the ecological crisis.
As he spoke poignantly of what was being lost—the mass extinction of species and the accelerating devastation of the biosphere—Berry told us, “The difficulty that we’re into has come, to a large extent, from the limitations and inadequacies of our story. And what we need, I think, and what we really have, is a new story.”