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Selkie/sealwoman statue in Mikladalur, Faroe Islands

And they can also mislead us.

“[Comedies], in the ancient world, were regarded as of a higher rank than tragedy, of a deeper truth, of a more difficult realization, of a sounder structure, and of a revelation more complete. The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man…. Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachments to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.” — Joseph Campbell

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“Behind each tale is the sense that a person must give themselves fully to the adventure of life or fail to find the story they came to earth to live. According to the old myths, failing to discover and live the dream of one’s life is a fate worse than death.” — Michael Meade

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“Because our greatest gifts and deepest wounds reside in the same area; because the resurrection of old pains can be so fearful and painful, people need to be reminded in diverse ways that the inner dream of life, the wise word set within and the psychic gold are the natural inheritance of each human soul. Because it is so easy to forget what we so desperately need to remember; old stories talk of golden treasures and great dreams that call us to undertake adventures and pilgrimages that in the end reveal what was within us all along.” — Michael Meade

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‘’This turning to the soul means taking our complexes out of the world, out of the realm of senex power and system — it means that the search and questing is a psychological search and questing, a psychological adventure. It means that the messianic and revolutionary impulse connect first with the soul and be concerned first with its redemption”. — James Hillman

Our beliefs are stories even if we don’t recognize them as such. Our culture is built on a story. Superficial stories keep us living on the surface of life. We need deep stories, stories that fascinate and mystify us, that speak to deeper truths. Humans need guidance, and myths, fairy tales and dreams speak the language of the soul.

Soul understands the symbolic language of instinct and emotion, even if our rational mind can’t quite grasp what it’s all about. A story that holds your fascination has something to say to you that you need to hear. The old stories pointed out how we live best by listening to unconscious forces, by discriminating, by courage and kindness, by a kind of divine foolishness. The old stories always entertained as they instructed us. They lasted because they spoke to eternal human issues. Stories die if they have nothing to say.

Stories give us meaning. People will fight to the death over their stories. The immigrant Americans used the story of Manifest Destiny to excuse their genocide of Native Americans. I think we need to question our stories and look for stories that promote our humanity rather than our pride and sense of superiority.

At the moment the story of America is changing. The story we were taught is full of lies and hidden injustice. The real history of our country involves profound ignorance and cruelty, which still lives as our American inheritance. The full story of slavery and genocide of the preexisting inhabitants of the continent is glossed over.

But only the true story can heal.

We promulgate a lot of stories like this: the American story of “success” still fascinates children who grow into adults craving a life of show. This is how we get lost. We need stories that connect us with ourselves. Stories that affirm our need for a meaningful life.

Stories are potent. They can help us live or they can get us lost. Like anything else, we need discrimination when confronted with a story.

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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