Feb 22, 2011


Every culture has two things in common: a creation myth and a flood myth.  Ok, before you all want to climb my case about using the word 'myth', let's get on the same page about what the word means.

According to Merriam-Webster, a myth is usually a traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.

Yeah, I know, that word ostensibly is sticking in the craw. Back to the dictionary, ostensibly means: to all outward appearances. So I don't have a problem with the word as it may be applied to your or my beliefs. In fact, if a story or 'myth', to all outward appearances explains our beliefs, it becomes a way of reinforcing what we may want to get across about what we believe.

To put all that upside down on its head; just because I write a new perspective of a mythical way of looking at something does not mean I am expressing my beliefs.



Now, back to the two common myths every culture has:

1. So do you believe in a 'Big Bang' or do you believe in an ordered set of events that took place over seven days? Is there a difference? If you believe that God can do anything, then I wonder if you stretch that to be a cover-all explanation of anything you just haven't taken the time to understand. Arthur C Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Don't like that magic word? So if you were able to go back in time say anytime earlier that about 1700 AD and you took two items with you; a ball point pen and a cigarette lighter, wouldn't you expect that the people of the time would wonder if you were performing magic? Maybe you should put those away, don't forget what they did to people who practiced magic. And that seven day issue? In two places there are lines in the Bible that bring the understanding of time into question: in the old testament in Psalm 90:4 it says, "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." And in the new testament in 2 Peter 3:8 it says, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."  (I'm using the Bible here because I am from the west - but don't forget that Islam also quotes from much of the old testament and between the two traditions I'm covering much of the world's beliefs - and these two stories appear in all the other traditions too.  No matter what you believe, remember that the written forms of these stories are as prone to editorial license as the oral traditions.  We are all merely men in the face of our gods.  Well, there are women too, but they tend to be better than us.)

2. The Flood - in case you haven't noticed any television or radio or newspapers over the last 100 years, there are lots of documented cases in every culture that exists or has existed on the face of the Earth about a flood. Somewhere along the line we evidently had no polar ice caps because all the ice was melted and covered the land. Or we had a meteor decide to take a vacation somewhere around CancĂșn, creating the 110 mile wide Chicxulub crater, possibly sending the mother of all tsunamis around the world (surf's up, Noah) and wiping some era of civilization out as it was known at the time.

Why do myths exist? To form a memorable way of handing down the best explanation of events through the oral history of a people. 

All of this is a way of saying that I try to pay attention to the common principles of myth when I write Lifeblood.

No comments: