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A New Mythology
In the movie Mindwalk, a female physicist states that “we need a new worldview.” This is a statement I wholeheartedly agree with. We have grown up as a species in René Descartes’ mechanical picture of the world, seeing every living being as a machine, as a clock (this comparison was made on Mindwalk). If something doesn’t work, we can disassemble the machine and fix the broken part or simply remove it. Thomas Moore talks about this image in his book Care of the Soul when he writes that: “It is remarkable how often people think they will be better off without the things that bother them.” (p. 5) He also talks about the image of the Psychologist as a mechanic and how we will go into therapy and say “this is what’s going on, now fix it”. But Moore goes on to explain what he does in dealing with it: “… I try to return what’s problematic to the person in a way that shows their need, even their worth.” (p. 6)
In our society today we are taught that running efficiently is the most important thing. We work our bodies with this in mind, train our brains to do calculations like a computer, and view food as fuel. When there is a malfunction in the “system” we look for a way to fix or eliminate it as quickly and easily as possible.
But where does that leave freedom of expression, compassion and beauty? Don’t we have room 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 dramatically helped us improve our lives and evolve at an incredible rate. But the bottom line is that these views are dangerous for us now. If we keep living the way we have been, the world will be a very dark place. I can see this already happening everywhere. I see it in the depletion of the ozone layer, in global warming, and in the insane rate at which we are depleting our resources. I see it in starving nations, in tortured children and animals, and in landfills and waterways overflowing with garbage. I mostly see it in my own city, community and life. We give up a lot to run efficiently, as good 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, so that this is our “world picture” or our world myth, everything will die.
So what do we do with it? Of course, I have a lot of ideas in this area, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed. First, I think as a culture we need to re-embrace the feminine, this is already happening, just look at the amazing growth of goddess religions and mythologies, this would add to the new vision of the already mentioned world. Second, we need a new world mythology. There, the answer to every question ever asked, a solution to the problems of today’s world. I know it sounds simple, but please stay with me and I’ll explain.
Let me first clarify what I mean when I say that we need a new worldview and that will naturally lead to the embracing of the feminine. It is no secret or insight that today technology means more than anything else. Let’s take a quote from Moore again: “…we can’t live without technology, but we can live without beauty.” (p. 278) Kala Trobe also makes this observation; “We (as a species) have created a culture in which science and the rational are revered above the primal and intuitive, when in fact both should be taken in equal measure.” (p. 33)
What these quotes tell me is that we cannot live without the masculine aspects of efficiency, technological advancement and of course reason and logic, but we can live without the feminine aspects of creativity, art, imagination and emotion .
The proof of this lies at the root of our culture, in our schools. Art and music programs are being cut daily to make way for more logic-based disciplines such as math and computer science, as well as the ever-evolving sports. What happens to our children when we do this, when we cut off all the creativity and fluidity of their education?
They grow up in a world like ours, where efficiency and logic are key and creativity, beauty, imagination and emotion are not. They learn to be competitive, insecure about their appearance, emotions and even their wants and needs. They learn to stifle those aspects of the feminine that their souls are crying out for.
As the beginning of our new world myth, we might first begin to consider these two sides, the masculine and the feminine, as equally important. The world is alive, as are the many beings within it, and any being is nourished by beauty and creativity. Instead of stifling our natural urges to create and observe things that are eternally beautiful, we could begin to embrace those urges. Taking the time to really look at the world around us, watching the birds pecking at the ground, the squirrels darting from tree to tree, or simply recognizing the change of season would have an effect on us. To do this we would first have to see the world as alive, for me this is not difficult to do, but for others it may be, and this is where mythology could help.
We already have an amazing collection of mythologies at our disposal. There are bookshelves and shelves in every library, every bookstore, and even in most of our homes. I agree with Carl Jung when he said that naïvely wishing for the good old days is a dangerous act indeed, but that’s not what I’m suggesting we do. I am not suggesting that we go back and dig up these mythologies to read them as fact. It wouldn’t be so simple as to suggest we go back to the age of superstitions and witch trials, I certainly wouldn’t want to be burned at the stake.
What I am suggesting is that we take another look at those 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, the human situation would be greatly alleviated and humanity would be less prone to suffer the delayed effects . of their own lack of wisdom.” (1999). And Moore says this: “… we could resurrect mythmakers of the past by reviving an appreciation for mythologies from around the world.” (p. 221)
So how might we rediscover world mythologies? We could always start right here, right now, by incorporating these mythologies into our lives. Tarot is a type of mythology and a good introduction to the archetypes and archetypal situations that revolve around and within mythology. Jung himself states that “the set of images of the Tarot cards were distantly descended from the archetypes of transformation…” (p.38). Here is a beginning.
Then there is the creation of our own mythologies and the mythologies of our children. As parents we instantly become mythmakers and gods for 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 myth can be described as any activity that involves deep imaginative, symbolic, metaphorical, and archetypal reflection on one’s life story.” (p. 35) Simply tell your story, the story of your upbringing, your ancestors, and yourself.
Adam Blatner listed telling stories, journaling, making art, “re-enchanting everyday life, adding angels, fairies, and magical moments,” and “adorning” life with symbols as ways to create myths. (2002)
I tell my son stories about our day’s activities where he plays the hero, the 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 bad person becomes a lonely dragon and a difficult situation becomes the cheater in the game. We begin each day by telling each other about our dreams from the night before and go to sleep each night reciting one thing we did to help another being that day.
There are so many ways to let your life become a magical and mythical place. All you need is a little time and a little imagination. Let the world and the things in it become an active player in your mythology, pay attention to your dreams, and don’t be afraid to be a little creative.
Studying mythology, learning about the myths of other cultures, and looking for ways that myths are playing out in our own lives will have effects on us and our families that will last for generations. “The end result of such a personal encounter with mythology is nothing less than a fundamental and profound alteration of the way one imagines life and engages with the world.” (Stromer, 35 years old) According to Moore by studying mythology we could learn to “…perceive the myths we are living every day and observe those that are particularly ours as individuals”. (p. 223)
There is a reason why mythology has lasted so long and why it still exists despite the many wars that have been unleashed upon 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 must remember that there is always something greater going on and that each of us is not only surrounded by the sacred and divine, but is a part of that sacredness and divinity. We can choose to record it or make it more magical with our presence. I choose to be present. how about you
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