The importance of mythology occurs to me when I read stories of triumph in various cultures, and also when I experience profound collective events.
The Olympics is an example of a certain kind of mythology based on peaceful competition between countries and people. The London Olympics were steeped in British mythology as well as our global mythology.
Mythology can uplift us to become better people, but it can also give us reasons to continue practices that benefit only some people. We can see mythology in the stories of cultures that seem caught in habits of thinking and ways of living that harm too many people.
When I use the words mythology or myths, I am not talking about stories or worldviews that are false. I am referring to the constellation of beliefs, stories, ways of living, spiritualities and views of the sacred that are present in a particular culture.
Last night, I started reading the book Dear Zari, The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan by Zarghuna Kargar. This is a very well written book, but it’s not an easy book to read because of the haunting and sad stories in its pages. The mythology at work in Afghanistan consists not only of Islamic principles, but of tribal beliefs, and social agreements that have been in place there for hundreds if not thousands of years. Part of that mythology is that women can be treated as possessions rather than human beings.
It’s disturbing for any Western women to realize that mythologies that degrade and essentially enslave women are still quite strong in certain places of the world. We have so many freedoms in countries where the myths of Western culture are dominant, not just for women but for men too.
As we become a more globally connected earth, we can’t help but have clashes in the living myths that are at work in the world.
It seems to me that we need to consider how myths can change in peaceful and loving ways. I don’t know how the mythology of certain parts of the world could be shifted to become more aligned with freedom and personal dignity for all people. Fortunately, there are people striving to create peace and justice in every country in the world.
After reading Dear Zari, I have a greater appreciation of America. While America is an imperfect country, we have so many freedoms and rights that are protected. I don’t believe there has ever existed a better country to support the rights of women, children, the elderly and the struggling as America. That doesn’t mean America’s social nets couldn’t be improved, because they seem to weaker than they should be now.
In our time, we have videos, audio, movies, social businesses, activists for almost any cause and so many ways to shift mythology. My personal favorite way of shifting mythology is through writing. The writings of innovative, thoughtful and creative men and women have been an important part of shifting the myths of the world, and will continue to be so.
If you’re writing, you are supporting a mythology. Let the mythology that you are writing and living be one that you can be grateful that you helped to create when your days on this earth are at an end.
What kind of mythology do you support through your life and actions?