Saturday, May 11, 2019

Underestimating the Need for "Myth"

Human beings need "Myth".

Ew, that sounds bad, doesn't it?  I'm sure my religious friends bristle at that word, as it implies that our cherished beliefs are outmoded, and my more modern friends bristle because that's something we have moved beyond.  But I will contend again - humans need myth.

Myth comes from mythos - the Greek word for story.  We have denigrated the idea of "myth" as something false or archaic, but a myth is simply a story that explains how and why things are the way they are.  A Myth is the story that lets people in general know and understand what is going on and why it is going on - and any Myth that is told is fundamentally "true".  Otherwise it doesn't actually explain things, it doesn't hold up anymore.  The story no longer holds water.

What if I said we need "story" - we need a narrative that provides context for where we are, where we've been, and what direction we are going?  Would that be better?  Because that's a myth.

And if there is no established myth, we will create one.

Consider the linked article comparing Climate Change Alarmism to ancient priesthoods.  This article details an example of how a myth is created.  Er, a story, a narrative.  That's how you get people to understand the reality that you are presenting.  The story gets one to act in response to the facts. 

And try as we might to be utterly objective and scientific, we NEED to have a myth to give our insights importance.  Evolutionary theory is not content to speak to current and observable changes; it must extrapolate backwards and speak to origins.  That's because it needed a myth (sorry - story) to frame it.  And so the story of why species needed to have originated this way is put forth - regardless of the utter inability to test for it objectively.

We need a good narrative to give us context and meaning.

And the biggest myth of the old modern era was that we didn't need such things - that we were sophisticated and knowledgeable and advanced.

Nope.  We were created (see, I'm showing my cards on what myth, um, narrative I hold to) to be people of story and context.  And when the collectively understood story of the West (that of Christianity) is jettisoned or compartmentalized away, there will still need to be new myths to arise.

People may not believe in God, but they believe in a story.  A militant atheist will fight tooth and nail to defend his story of how things are.  That's what we do - that's how we justify our positions and our attitudes and our actions.  Myths give meaning and make us right and heroic.

So - what's your story?

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

In his 1984 Office of Nuclear Waste Isolation report, "Communication Measures to Bridge Ten Millennia," Thomas A. Sebeok discussed how danger warnings about an underground high-level nuclear waste repository could be transmitted for 10,000 years or more, especially through times when civilizations might exist with little or limited scientific knowledge or instruments or even literacy:

"A ritual annually renewed can be foreseen, with the legend retold year-by-year (with, presumably, slight variations). The actual 'truth' would be entrusted exclusively to -- what we might call for dramatic emphasis -- an 'atomic priesthood', that is, a commission of knowledgeable physicists, experts in radiation sickness, anthropologists, linguists, psychologists, semioticians, and whatever additional expertise may be called the future. Membership in this 'priesthood' would be self-selective over time....

"The 'atomic priesthood' would be charged with the added responsibility of seeing to it that our behest, as embodied in the cumulative sequence of metamessages, is to be heeded -- if not for legal reasons, then for moral reasons, with perhaps the veiled threat that to ignore the mandate would be tantamount to inviting some sort of supernatural retribution."