Trying to get students to understand myth is probably the hardest thing I do as a professor, yet understanding the power of myth is probably the single most important thing I could convey as a teacher. Although it can be extremely confusing, a true understanding of myth is the single most important foundation of understanding and winning the culture wars. The main problem is, people falsely think of myths as untrue stories. The first examples of modern myths that people think of, falsely, are Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, but these are children's fairy tales, not myths.
The paradox of myths is that, although we think of them as false stories, myths are actually true stories to the people who believe them. Thus, people today are at a total loss to understand modern myth and their power, because they see myths everywhere in ancient history, and in other people's religions, but they can't see how they believe in myths too. People think they have a handle on the truth, they don't realize how their understanding of truth is created by their myths.
The definition of a myth is a simply a story that shapes people's identities and values. Myths provide paradigms for us to follow in our actions, and archetypes for us to follow in our values. The telling of these mythic stories is a social event, and myths serve to create communities.
One of the best ways to discover your foundational myths is to work backwards. Start with your values and identity. Ask yourself, how did I come to embody those values and that identity? Who am I copying, who do I hold up as an exemplar of those ideals? What stories have I heard about the origins of those things, who was acting, what did they do? Viola, when you get into answering these questions, you are exploring the power of myth in your own life.
Myths are stories about truth, about reality, the way the world is, and how we should properly act in response to that world. Thus, myths are often about origins, how things came about, and those who established the lifeways back then, that we still follow today.
I will follow up with a post on some specifics about our modern myths, but this is all I have time for now. If you follow the steps above, you should be able to begin to discern them for yourself.
When you begin to evaluate what your personal myths are, the next step is analyzing how you came into contact with those myths, in order words, finding out who are the story tellers. Oftentimes, you will find that the primary myth makers for the average citizens today are history classes and entertainment movies. More on that later, but suffice it to say for now, that he who controls those media controls the identity and values of the masses.
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