But why, you might ask?
These days we often use the word "myth" to describe something that isn't true, but in ancient times myth meant "emergent truth". According to mythologist Michael Meade, one of the problems that we have as modern day humans, especially in the West, is that we have fallen out of story. We have lost touch with the stories that connect people and carry people through difficult times.
I'm a firm believer that mythical tales, whether they be Hindu or from any other lineage, can offer up deep truths about the nature of life and the curious predicament of being born in a human body. If you look around at what we take in through our various types of media, most of it seems to be opinion or entertainment. Myths are much deeper than that. To quote Michael Meade again, they present to us "the eternal drama that is the drama of the individual soul in the midst of the ever changing world."
The famous mythologist Joseph Campbell said that myths can help inspire wonder in us when we have forgotten it, and that they can be a guiding light through challenging and transformational experiences. They often tell the stories of other beings, human or not, who experience suffering or difficulties that get to the very root of their being. In reading or listening to these stories, we can see ourselves in them, as if the myth is a mirror showing us where we are bravely working. Myth has ways of revealing truths that our logical brain can't access. They tap into dimensions of human experience that science or technology cannot.
The reason that these stories survive over centuries or even millennia is that they are archetypal. An archetype is an idea or pattern derived from universal experience that is present in human consciousness. In other words, the characters in the stories are just like us. They struggle, they battle evil, they doubt themselves, they have emotional breakdowns, and they have deep longings and desires. In many of the stories, the world falls apart and has to be recreated. Haven't you ever felt like your own world was falling apart? We can tap into the power of these myths when the rug gets pulled out from beneath us, in those in between moments of uncertainty and disharmony. They can be a type of compass, pointing us back to what is deeply true. They help explain, reassure, and guide us as we pass through life's sticky spots.
I know that I personally often feel like a cork on a turbulent sea. Life is wacky and unpredictable, and I'm always on the hunt for anything that helps me make meaning of it all. My favorite quote from Joseph Campbell says it all:
"Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends."
In the face of such uncertainty, myths help me get a grasp on things. They remind me that I’m not alone, that in fact my heart is connected to the heart of the world and everyone in it. None of us get away without some difficulty in this life, and I can learn from the challenges that others, be they human, animal, or god, have gone through. Myth connects me to the soul of the world. Myth makes meaning when things seem meaningless.
If we are going to heal ourselves - if we are going to heal the world - there's a good chance that the healing will come neither from opinion nor from technology. It will come from imagination. Myths are a form of collective imagination, secretly connecting us to each other and to nature. I encourage you to read myths from many different cultures and you will see similarities in them. In a world that is so divided, these tales remind us of our interconnectedness. Read the stories and share them with your loved ones! The retelling of the stories becomes the recreating of the myth in the moment. You become the story and you become an active participant in not just your own healing, but the healing of the world.
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