A modern definition of myth comes from Joseph Campbell: “Myth refers to an intricate set of interlocking stories, rituals, rites, and customs that inform and give the pivotal sense of meaning and direction to a person, family, community, or culture.” From this perspective, all of us are living collections of myths, consciously or unconsciously modeling our behavior, identity, and aspirations around images of what we believe it means to be a parent, worker, youth, elder, lover, partner, adult, child, seeker, white person, Asian person, etc.
Campbell believed all of our great art and literature are also expressions of mythological images and archetypes, appropriate to specific human cultures, serving the role of preserving, emphasizing, or challenging those cultures. In other words, myths run deep! Below are some questions for individual and collective reflection:
- What myth or myths are you living?
- What mythic character, (from any culture or tradition), do you most closely identify with?
- Think of your favorite mythic legend or story. What great themes or tensions are being played out or negotiated by the characters? Good vs. Evil? Individual vs. Community? Security vs. Heroism? Love vs. Fame? Freedom vs. Authority? Knowledge vs. Ignorance? Other?
- What mythic themes are being played out or negotiated in your life right now?
- What mythic themes do you see being played out in our national politic right now?