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Image by Gus Mejia

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” — Claude Monet

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“Mythic imagination can break the spell of time and open us to a level of life that remains timeless. Myth is not about what happened in past times; myth is about what happens to people all of the time.

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.

Mythic imagination is necessary for re-imagining, re-storying, and thus re-storing the world as a place of wonder, beauty, and truth. 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.

— Michael Meade, “The Genius Myth”

Myth is a big subject. It’s only visible to us as myth when we don’t believe in it. Otherwise, our thoughts are full of myth. Our thinking is full of invisible myths. What is obviously true to one culture is a myth to another one. American mythic thinking may seem banal and devoid of magic to a person not raised with them. Colossal power, money and domination of nature can get boring, believe it or not, even to an American.

Here in Mexico, I find the native mythic expression much more moving and beautiful than myths brought from Europe. Those ancient myths are still alive here. People still believe they can call forth and communicate with loved ones who have passed beyond the veil. Who’s to say whether that is wishful thinking, factually true or myth. Myth always carries a truth that speaks to the deepest center in us. As long as we believe, we retain a certain orientation, a certain guidance.

I began to see my native culture’s Christian story as myth when I was still a teenager. It lost its power to shape my life, in spite of its convincing philosophy of love. I was already convinced. I didn’t need a story of a miraculous birth and a savior risen from the dead, which turned out to be a far from unique religious idea anyway.

But not being able to believe left a void. I still needed a myth at the center of my life. Watching Mexicans act out their mythic ceremonies is strangely moving to me. Partly it’s the beauty they create around their celebrations, but it’s also the fact that they so obviously believe in the supernatural. Magic plays a large role in their lives. As an outsider, I see the “myth.” Charming as it may be, I can’t help but see it as an over rational North American.

To some extent, I have constructed what Thomas Moore calls “a religion of my own.” Belief in personal and universal love, closeness to the earth, love for beauty and the arts, respect for others regardless of race and culture, interest in learning and ideas — all the things you would expect.

Mystery and magic are a little harder to conjure by rational means. That’s one reason I have to live in non American climes. Being a stranger in a strange land, to coin a phrase, helps to keep things from becoming too familiar and banal for me.

Everyone is charged with piecing together their own mythic quilt from what they can find and create if they can’t believe the one given to them. It’s always a work in progress. Living without anything mythic in your life is too empty, too painful.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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