Posts Tagged ‘myth’

People often use the word myth as if it is the opposite of the word truth. It’s juxtaposed to reality. You hear that a lot. An explanation about something is dismissed as a myth, meaning that it’s not true, not a fact, that’s it’s unreal. It’s quite strange how we’ve developed this way of using the word myth, because that was never the original meaning of the word. In Karen Armstrong’s “A Short History of Myth” (ISBN 978-1841957036) she says

Human beings have always been mythmakers [because] we are meaning seeking creatures.

Myths then, are a kind of story, a particular kind of story which has the potential to cast light on some aspect of life, some potential to make something clearer, to improve our understanding.

Myths are universal and timeless stories that reflect and shape our lives – they explore our desires, our fears, our longings, and provide narratives that remind us what it means to be human.

Mythology is about enabling us to live more intensely……it expresses our innate sense that there is more to human beings and to the material world than meets the eye.

I think this a key problem for us now at this stage in human development. How do understand both objective and subjective reality? How do we find meaning and purpose in our lives? The great advances of materialistic naturalism (as Havi Carel) would call it, has advanced through a reductionist approach to reality. It’s based on the belief that everything can best be understood by considering the parts, the components, from which it is made. That’s brought great advances in our ways of being able to understand and interact with the physical world, but when pushed to an extreme it creates a world view which denies the importance, even the reality of anything which cannot be measured, counted, or described objectively. That’s created a sense that the life itself has no meaning, that individual lives have no purpose, and that the priorities of living are about accumulation and consumption of material objects. Now the whole system is in crisis. Prime Minister Gordon Brown says we have never been here before and nobody really knows how to progress.

Karen Armstrong says, “Mythology and Science both extend the scope of human beings.” She’s right. these different ways of grasping reality complement each other.

A myth is true because it is effective, not because it gives us factual information. If, however, it does not give us new insight into the deeper meaning of life, it has failed. If it works, that is, if it forces us to change our minds and hearts, gives us new hope, and compels us to live more fully it is a valid myth.

Wouldn’t you like to read myths which did that?

She concludes –

We need myths that will help us to identify with all our fellow beings

We need myths that help us to realise the importance of compassion

We need myths that help us to create a spiritual attitude to see beyond our immediate requirements

We need myths that help us to venerate the earth as sacred once again.

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