Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Myth as 'what if?'

"It is a mistake to regard myth as an inferior mode of thought, which can be cast aside when human beings have attained the age of reason. Mythology is not an early attempt at history, and does not claim that its tales are objective fact. Like a novel, an opera or a ballet, myth is make-believe; it is a game that transfigures our fragmented, tragic world, and helps us to glimpse new possibilities by asking 'what if?' - a question which has also provoked some of our most important discoveries in philoso­phy, science and technology." -  Karen Armstrong (h/t MINemergent)

1 comment:

  1. roddy19848:22 AM

    I accept, as who wouldn't, Karen Armstrong's proposition that myth is not an inferior form of thought.

    But to put it in the category of "make-believe" doesn't advance things much. The Sermon on the Mount is mythic, but is it make-believe? How about the woman taken in adultery? If people believe those two things happened, are they confused?

    (The answer, I hazard, is no.)

    Ovid (like Professor Armstrong?) must have been able to understand myth as fiction, being an urbane poet in the most sophisticated city on earth. What about the illiterate folk who taught him the myths orally when he was a boy? Did they "believe" them? And if they did, were they confused?

    (For my answer, see above.)

    What, come to think of it, is belief?

    The good news is that the myth ball does not need advancing. There are no "experts" on myth (despite the hero of The Da Vinci Code being a "Professor of Symbology"), and they belong to people not any elite.