Friday, August 24, 2007

"Myth is an initiative story, an experience of the emotions and the imagination in which we make a significant shift from one level of awareness to another"
Thomas Moore

During the summer of 1987 I read the Lord of the Rings triology and this marked the beginning of my interest in mythology, fantasy, and fairy tales. After reading the LOTR's I went on to read the Chronicles of Narnia, Norse Mthology, and the writings of Scottish Victorian author George MacDonald, the father of Christian fantasy. Along the way I also became interested in the subject of fantasy and myth and gradually began to suspect that myth and fantasy were misunderstood especially among Christians. In fact, many Christians feel threatened by fantasy and go bonkers when someone even, suggests for consideration, that some of the Biblical stories may by mythical rather than literal history. I suspect myth is threatening to many Christians because they associate mythology with "falsehood and irrelevance" rather than understanding or interpreting myth as potentially "life-shaping, sacred, and instrumental in helping individuals and societies establish their identity, values, and find meaning in the cosmos."

I understand that fantasy/myth is not everyone's cup of tea but I do believe it is a powerful potential "source for tracing the patterns life takes at a very deep level", and it is unfortunate, imo, that so many people miss out on what myths have to offer simply because they have fallen under the spell of the modern myth that asserts that relevancy must be quantified in numbers and literal is better than fantasy...This summer while I was layed up with my back injury I watched season two of the television hit show Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives is pure fantasy but after watching both seasons one and two I have concluded there is more truth found in this fantasy series about the nature of relationships and the struggle of day to day life than most of the relationship classes and seminars I attended earlier in my life. But how could this be, one might ask?...I think it has to do with understanding one the purposes of mythology.

Thomas Moore says,.... "Mythology is a special tool for enchantment..Mythology keeps our imagination at a level where emotion and meaning have a home but where rational analysis has no entry. One of the purposes of mythology is to transport our imagination to a level beyond the factual, giving full articulation to matters that can't be measured---things like love, hate, death, fear, and evil...mythology leads us deeper into the complexities of our emotions and personalities... Myth gives a person the sense of living in a meaningful story, the feeling that one's life makes sense and has value, and these sensations are the basis for self-confidence and stability, purpose and poise. Without myth, life has to be proven valuable every day and is lived from profound anxiety; but with the awareness that one's life is grounded in eternal stories and motifs, one's own personal story begins to feel enchanted, and this feeling gives rise to a love of one's own life that is the cure for narcissism, insecurity, and self doubt"


Dave said...

Your reference to a show like Desperate Housewives as an example of Myth is helpful. I think it's easy to think that Myth has to be based on ancient stories or other-worldly premises a la what is popularly lumped into the "fantasy" genre.(Or if not fantasy, "science fiction") I think we are within our rights to regard spy novels, scary stories, political thrillers, romances and other more conventional works of fiction (incl. books, movies, TV shows) as contemporary mythology. Even interpreting current events along mythological lines can give us a perspective that we would otherwise lack if we just took the standard partisan approach or interpreted them as "simply the facts."

I find it hard, myself, to dedicate much time to reading books like LOTR or Harry Potter, but I don't feel like my life is lacking in rich mythic content!

Bilbo said...

Hi Dave,

I can't remember chapter and verse but Moore, "somewhere" makes the same point about regarding novels, t.v. shows, etc. as examples of myth which is why I mentioned Desperate Housewives...Personally I think film is probably the most powerful myths of our time which is why I consider the likes of Lucas, Spielberg, and Jackson as the predominant mythmakers of our time....