Saturday, August 23, 2008

Myth works however it damn well pleases.

I wrote previously about myths and how they lay the cultural foundation for the society that follows. This isn’t to suggest that they are factually real, because while there might be a historical figure or event, what the masses remember is the portions they “believe” in. This happens not because people are weak minded or eager to ignore the portions of the story that they don't believe in, but rather because the fluid form of myth offers people the ability to accept the portions of the story that seem right. Also, myth works in our minds because we do not need the whole story to understand portions of it.

A legendary story from India...

“Six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant's body.

The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

A wise man explained to them: All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned”


This also argues how various people can be confronted by the same truth and see different answers coming from it. In 1988 I witnessed a debate and rather than discuss the subject of the debate, I suggest you should look at the poll that was seen as proving two very different viewpoints. The poll information showed that when asked that 30 % of people said no, 30% of people said only under certain conditions, and 40% said yes. One politician said the numbers showed that 60% of Americans agreed that the subject in question was wrong in most circumstances. On the other side it was argued that 70% of Americans agreed that the subject in question should be allowed. Both sides saw the same poll and had vastly different views of it.

There is also said to be no point in shooting down theories and beliefs dealing with mythic figures or events. Rationalism and logic only serve to point out that if you dissect something the life in it is gone.

This is not the same by the way as religious thought and claims being dissected by scientific methods and analysis. Religious claims and thought form the basis of belief and therefore there is an invitation to think and dissect and discuss further upon in. Myth is not something you are “supposed” to have belief or faith in. When you dissect myth it remains because it was never what someone thought it was anyway. When you dissect religion, however you do, it comes back to the individual with faith saying I believe it because I do, or I believe it because I had a religious experience that proved it. While the scientist might completely disbelieve such a claim, they can in no way disprove it. As well, when a person claims there is a God or not a God short of a miraculous occurrence to support it, or to deny it, the point is really mute outside of the belief or disbelief of those making the claim.

I realize it is silly, and I am somewhat embarrassed to say, I developed a superstition when I was a rabid fan of the Minnesota Twins. There arose a pattern that if I left the room where I listened to the game, the other team would score, or worse if I did not somehow listen to the game at all the Twins would lose. I am completely aware that I was using magical thinking, and the poor Twins of 1980 and 1981 really didn’t do very well even if it was true, I missed only 5 or 6 games and they had a record 77-84, and then 41-68. Logic would suggest that I should never have developed such a superstition, but then secondary beliefs roll in. And really, I loved listening to the games so why not?

And then in 1987 I was made very happy, and also in 1991.

The point of this all is to say that myth functions basically however it works in your mind. Rational views towards it tend to fail because myth and religion function on different levels, and one requires faith and the other requires nothing more than thinking it possible.

1 comment:

kurt wilcken said...

Arg. All week I've been meaning to write a piece about Mytheopoeia, except I can't figure out what I have to say about it.

Now I'm going to have to think of something.

Maybe tomorrow. Gotta game to work on.