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A New Mythology
In the movie Mindwalk, a female physicist says we “need a new worldview”. This is a statement with which I completely agree. We have risen as a species on René Descartes’ mechanical image of the world, seeing all living things as a machine, as a clock (this comparison was made in Mindwalk). If something goes wrong, we can take the machine apart and fix the broken part or just remove it. Thomas Moore discusses this image in his book Care of the Soul when he writes, “It is remarkable how often people think they will be better off without the things that bother them. (p. 5) He also discusses the image of the psychologist as a mechanic and how we go into therapy and say “here’s what’s wrong, now fix it”. But Moore goes on to explain what he does about it, “…I try to return what’s problematic to the person in a way that shows their necessity, even their value.” (page 6)
In our society today, we are taught that running efficiently is of the utmost importance. We work our bodies in this spirit, we train our brains to do calculations like a computer, and we think of food as fuel. When there is a malfunction in the “system”, we look for a way to fix it or remove it as quickly and easily as possible.
But what about freedom of expression, compassion and beauty? Don’t we have a place for these things in today’s world? I would say we have space but no one is using it.
Descartes’ image of the world and everything in it as a machine has helped us dramatically improve our lives and evolve at an incredible rate. But the bottom line is that these views are dangerous for us now. If we continue to live as we have been, the world will be a very dark place. I can see this already happening everywhere I turn. I see it in the depletion of the ozone layer, in global warming and in the breakneck speed at which we are depleting our resources. I see it in starving nations, in tortured children and animals, and in dumps and waters overflowing with filth. Above all, I see it in my own city, my community and my life. We give up so much on functioning efficiently, as good little machines should, but we are NOT machines, our world is NOT a machine, and the beings in it are NOT machines! If we continue to hold this view, whether it’s our “world picture” or our world myth, everything will die.
So what do we do about it? Of course, I have a lot of ideas in this area, as I’m sure you already guessed. First of all I think as a culture we need to embrace the feminine again, this is already happening, just take a look at the awesome growth of Goddess religions and mythologies, this would add to the new worldview already mentioned. Second, we need a new world mythology. There, the answer to all the questions ever asked, a solution to the problems of today’s world. I know it sounds simple, but please stick with me and I’ll explain it to you.
Let me first clarify what I mean when I say we need a new worldview and that will naturally lead to embracing the feminine. It’s no secret or deep insight that today technology means more than anything. Take once again a quote from Moore, “…we can’t live without technology, but we can live without beauty.” (p. 278) Kala Trobe also makes this observation; “We have created (as a species) a culture in which science and the rational are revered above the primal and the intuitive, when in fact both should be taken equally.” (p.33)
What these quotes tell me is that we cannot live without the masculine aspects of efficiency, technological progress, and of course reason and logic, but we can live without the feminine aspects of creativity, art, imagination and emotion.
The proof is at the root of our culture, in our schools. Arts and music programs are being cut daily to make way for more logical disciplines such as math and computer science, as well as ever-changing sports. What happens to our children when we do this, when we take all the creativity and fluidity out of their upbringings?
They grow up in a world much like ours, where efficiency and logic are essential and creativity, beauty, imagination and emotion are not. They learn to be competitive, insecure about their looks, their emotions, and even their wants and needs. They learn to stifle those aspects of the feminine that their souls crave.
As a starting point for our new world myth, we might first begin to hold these two sides, male and female, as being of equal importance. The world is alive, as are the many beings that inhabit it, and all beings are nourished by beauty and creativity. Instead of drowning out our natural impulses to create and observe things that are eternally beautiful, we could begin to embrace those impulses. Just taking the time to really look at the world around us, seeing the birds pecking at the ground, the squirrels teetering from tree to tree, or just recognizing the changing of the seasons would have an effect on us. To do that we should first see the world as alive, for me that’s not hard to do, but for others it can be, and that’s where mythology could help.
We already have an incredible collection of mythologies at our disposal. There are shelves and shelves of them in every library, in every bookstore, and even in most of our homes. I agree with Carl Jung when he says that naively wishing for the good old days is actually a dangerous act, but that’s not what I’m suggesting we do. I am not suggesting that we go back and dig up these mythologies in order to read them as fact. I wouldn’t be simple-minded enough to suggest we go back to the days of superstitions and witch trials, I certainly wouldn’t want to be burned at the stake.
What I’m suggesting is that we look again at these ancient mythologies and the many world mythologies that still exist and, with our current knowledge intact, study them for what they have to offer. Elsa-Brita Titchenell explains it much more clearly in her Mythology Today article: “If we recognized the infallible, thinly veiled wisdom in all ancient traditions, man’s predicament would be greatly alleviated and mankind would be less inclined to suffer the delayed effects of his own lack of wisdom.” (1999). And Moore has this to say, “…we could resurrect the mythmakers of the past by reclaiming an appreciation for mythologies around the world.” (p.221)
So how would we go about rediscovering the mythologies of the world? We could always start here, now, by bringing these mythologies into our own lives. The Tarot is a type of mythology and a good introduction to archetypes and archetypal situations revolving around and within mythology. Jung himself states that “all tarot card images were descended by far from the archetypes of transformation…” (p.38). Here is a start.
Then there is the making of our own mythologies and the mythologies of our children. As parents, we instantly become mythmakers and gods to our children, and that’s a responsibility I take very seriously. Simply telling your story is always a wonderful place to start. Richard Stromer says that “…the practice of personal mythology can be described as any activity that engages a person in deep imaginative, symbolic, metaphorical, and archetypal reflection on their life story.” (p. 35) Simply tell your story, the story of your upbringing, your ancestry and yourself.
Adam Blatner listed storytelling, journaling, creating art, “re-enchanting everyday life, adding angels, fairies and magical moments” and “adorning” life with symbols as means of creation of myths. (2002)
I tell my son stories about our day’s activities where he’s playing hero, trickster or whatever and for us, that’s myth-making. We make up stories about magical beasts and ancient guides playing in our lives. In our lives, a wicked person becomes a lonely dragon and a difficult situation turns into a game scammer. We start each day telling ourselves our dreams from the night before and we go to bed each night reciting something we did for help another being that day.
There are so many ways to let your life become a magical, mythical place. All you need is a little time and a little imagination. Let the world and the things in it become an active part of your mythology, pay attention to your dreams, and don’t be afraid to be a little creative.
Studying mythology, learning about myths from other cultures, and researching how myths play out in our own lives will have effects on us and our families that will last for generations. “The ultimate result of such a personal encounter with mythology is nothing less than a fundamental and profound alteration in the way one views one’s life and engages with the world.” (Stromer, 35) According to Moore, by studying mythology, we could learn to “…perceive the myths we experience every day and observe those that are particularly ours as individuals.” (p.223)
There’s a reason the mythology has lasted so long and why it’s still around despite the many wars that have raged against it. We need mythology, perhaps more than ever. We need to remember the big picture and the lasting effects of the decisions we make every day. We need to remember that there is always something bigger going on and that each of us is not only surrounded by the sacred and the divine, we are part of that sacred and divinity. We can choose to clutter it up or make it more magical by having our very presence. I choose to be present. And you?
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