The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as
they are looking for the experience of being alive.”
- Joseph Campbell
Hearing a story awakens the mythic story living in each of us. It places us in a “mythic condition” that reconnects us to the core imagination and living story at the center of our soul. Being touched by myth carries us to the center where the world is always ending and always beginning again. From there, meaningful changes and transformations can be precipitated in our lives, just as happens to the characters in stories and myths.
When the troubles get deep enough, when the problems become greater than us, when the weight of the world is on our shoulders, mythic imagination can offer more ways to proceed than the more narrow paths of logic and reason. In the heart’s way of knowing and thinking, images and ideas go together. For, there is thought in the heart that is connected to the deepest power of humanity: the power of imagination.
— Michael Meade, “The Genius Myth”
We live very much in the realm of ideas. Mythic ideas come from a wiser place in us than the rational mind can offer. We do need that guidance. We carry that reference library deep inside us, if we can access it.
The old stories can form a scaffolding that our individual edifice in life can be built on. We need those ideas if we are not to lose our way. As unique as we are, archetypal ideas and reflections still apply to each of us. Religion has traditionally filled that role, but storytelling in general is a storehouse of insight if we can absorb the message.
The old stories have an entertainment aspect, an element of wonder that have a certain fascination. They pull the listener into the drama and stir up inner levels of the human drama. They are moving, magical and they penetrate into the psyche. When they cease to do that, they have died. Our religious stories have a hard time surviving in our logic based society.
I admit that I tend to view our culture’s religious stories with a fatal dose of rationalism. I’ve been forced to look elsewhere for numinosity. I followed my fascinations into language and the arts. I have proceeded by questions. I chase beauty and mystery in my eccentric way, as a perpetual outsider.
When I was younger, I hoped to fit in somewhere. Finding a real home for my most basic self pushed me hither and yon until I looked up one day and realized I had planted and grown it inside myself. Living in a familiar, comfortable, unchallenging culture was not what I needed.
Home for me somehow evolved into living surrounded by lots of surprises and unexplained phenomena. Learning, changing, seeing things with different eyes, being surprised every day became where I felt most alive. It’s fascinating to live amongst people who believe and act on myths you can see as mythic. There’s something moving about that as long as the myths are beautiful, as long as they celebrate connection.
Mexico has that in spades. In Europe you see a moribund Christianity, beautiful churches with old people in them, performing their perfunctory rituals. Mythic stories and religious celebrations in Mexico still have energy in them.
And yet, living in the world of abstractions severs us from reality. Living, loving and suffering is the human condition. Help is needed from any source of wisdom, but flesh-and-blood experience is the foundation of a life well lived. Inherent in that is pain as well as joy. Abstractions may guide us but they don’t substitute for living.
We who live in this time are faced with the task of creating our own myth, our own sense of meaning, our own beauties. We oscillate between the poles of living and ideas of living, abstraction and reality. We need guidance but we also need to experience living as physical/emotional human beings.
Putting it all together may take a lifetime.
- Anima Fire is my pub.