Paul writes – Ian Harris, writing in last weekends Dominion newspaper discussed myths under the heading “Exploring the relevance of myths and their influence in our lives.” It was an interesting column, drawing on the wonderful movie As it is in Heaven and Karen Armstrong’s little book A Short History of Myth.
Popularly, “myth” has been defined as a “made-up” story; a fiction, a fanciful tale. Armstrong, however, defines “myth” as “stories that enable us to place our lives in a larger setting, that reveal an underlying pattern, and give us a sense that, against all the chaotic and depressing evidence to the contrary, life has meaning and value.” Harris adds, “Myths, then, are not about opting out of the world, but living more intensely within it … they gave people their bearings within their culture.”
Armstrong again; a meaningful, a myth or narrative out of which we live, is one that “forces us to change our minds and hearts, gives us new hope, and compels us to live more fully”
Using this Armstrong’s descriptors, it becomes clear then, that we all live out of myths; we all live out of stories and narratives that both describe our world and help us name and orientate ourselves in that world. It might be the myths out of which business operates; the scriptural myth’s (i.e., stories and narratives) that gives a Jesus-following life “meaning and value. Some myths orientate us toward life, authenticity and what is deepest and most true about us; others don’t – the myth instead leaves us empty and life-less.
Within Christian ‘circles’ there are a range of competing myths, stories or ways of believing that attempt to orientate and settle us in the face of a lack of control, crises, chaos, uncertainty, unpredictability, transition and discontinuous change more generally. There is the evangelical myth, the post-evangelical, the radical orthodox, Catholicism, progressive-Protestantism etc, etc.
Armstrong’s extended-reflection on myth is helpful in enabling us to listen for, recognise, and interact with myth, not as a fanciful tale, but as the stories, narratives and scripts into and out of which we live. Stories that provide identity, meaning and purpose.