Myths and mythology for much of my life I found to be ingenuous and unworldly; myths went as far even as to annoy me, and I think that for a long time I saw them as unnecessary childlike guides that were intended to help us to interpret our world, and when it occurred to me that-that is exactly what they were the simplicity of it steadily grew on me, and suddenly I felt as if the necessity of myth was more important for our humanity than I was once able to accept, I began to perceive mythology from an emotionally intellectual vantage, and that changed the way that I perceive myself, and the world around me.
We tell stories to help us to understand ourselves and our worlds in ways more spiritual and emotional than we are--or were--otherwise able to acknowledge, however when we take those tales at face value when we ignore the intention and the power of mythology as it affect us spiritually and emotionally we ignore a guiding principle at the root of the human experience. Some myths we dismiss as fairy tale while others are so blindly accepted that we believe them to be literal and not parabolic, and from either perspective we lose a great deal of understanding, and of purpose.
“People say that we we’re all seeking is a meaning for life…I think what we are really seeking is an experience of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell
It became abundantly clear to me that we have rapidly abandoned a sense of self for the sake of convenience and diplomatic submissiveness, and we did so, I believe, from a fear of self-reflection, the great professor and writer Joseph Campbell coined the term “follow your bliss,” a modern manifestation of similar phrases such as “Know your own happiness,” (Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility; 1811) , “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing,” (Dale Carnegie, quoted by Jill Murphy Long in her book Permission to Play: Taking Time to Renew Your Smile; 2003) and others, and still for one reason or another it can be incredibly daunting being asked to find what makes you happy and then to do it [often], for a number of reasons, if not that people get stuck—we feel stuck. I know that personally I have struggled a great deal with the concept: the idea that once you discover who you are, and/or what you’re supposed to do everything should simply fall into place, which, of course, begs the question: well, how the hell do I do that? And, what if I never actually find out who I am, or what I’m supposed to be doing?
I have suffered from numerous creative blocks throughout my life that have affected me in ways: emotional, physical and intellectual, and every one of them was based the subconscious ideal that I really don’t have all that much to offer, and so I would kind of shut down at first and then that attitude would become a very real part of my personality. Like in the Jim Carrey Movie, Yes Man (2008). I actively sought different ways to change the way that I process thought and that I perceived that world. And yet the incredible healing power of myth has always been readily available, the issue has become that many of us have been conditioned to perceive myth as the childlike fairy tale only, and not encrypted parables developed to model and oversee our emotional and spiritual selves.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that mythology is archaeological psychology. Mythology gives you a sense of what a people believes, and what they fear.” ~ George Lucas.
Religion is a mythology that wears the mask of its own certainty, a parable which has been denied the possibility of evolution, and the only thing, the only idea since its inception that has been disallowed to evolve. Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll; if anyone adds to them God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. Joseph Campbell said something along the lines of: the narrative of Christianity can stay the same; the myths are based in truth, it just needs to incorporate modern myths in order to successfully associate with a contemporary ideology.
Myths allow us to conceptualize feeling and our spirituality in ways that would otherwise be difficult if not impossible for many to understand. These stories offer us a way to relate exactly in the only way that we are—or were—capable, as a reflection of the physical self. Consider the Roman or Greek pagan Gods, for example, and specifically the fact that there were so many: God(s) of the Sun, God(s) of War and of Love and others, many of us who have been raised with the perception that God is a being the origin of our image, whether we believe in God or not, and we attribute that to the Roman and Greek Gods of myth, but, in reality, these gods were merely vessels, the personification of what we might not understand in order for us to relate to the myth, and to our world. Campbell refers to them [God(s)] as an energy, or a reflection of the Sun or of War or of Love. Myth opens us up to the energies of the universe so that we can relate, and experience our universe on an emotional level.
Unfortunately we canonized the ethos of our myths, the space holders—the characters—and allowed the truths that, “All the Gods, all the Heavens, and all the Hells are within [you] us…” To be appropriated and manipulated and turned into fairy tales and further for our general perception of what a myth is to be distorted.
Have you ever wondered why we accept the standards from which we build the foundation of so many of our ideas upon? Have you ever looked at a definition, for example, and wondered why it was necessary to suggest, as an addition to the definition, that something might be, “A widely held but false belief or idea?”
Myths offer us only an opportunity to relate to our world and ourselves in ways that we otherwise may not be able, by inviting us to explore the energies and the many experiences that we are capable of in our lives, experiences that, without our myths, we may otherwise neglect or be guarded against.
It feels as if I have written a number of these, but never quite like this—I suppose—at least not how I might intend for this to come across; losing someone to death is difficult for people to understand and to cope with, especially when someone so young leaves us, to the point at which our common response is to offer condolences for our loss. To me it just seems to be more, I don’t know, comprehensive than that, aside from the unusually acquisitive the typical response discerns, I don’t know I think I take more exception to the idea that someone might actually be lost. I’ll return to more about what I mean by that later.
A number of people that I went to high school with have passed away, and it seems like an unusually high number of people to lose from a single class. I knew all of them, however there were only a few I knew well. I remember very well when Ben Shrear, Marina Becker, and Mary-Beth Farmer passed away, and very distinctly, and the three of them—until last year—affected me the greatest; last year Heather Vogt passed away, and I knew her fairly well, in high school, though we didn’t speak much afterwards—I moved away and rarely spoke to anyone from home (an unconscious decision that I now regret). There is a Boerne High School Class of ’03 Facebook group, and one of my classmates maintains a collection of people that have passed away, and it seems as if we lose someone every year, and every year for the last five or six years. Last week I learned that another of our Boerne High School class of 03’ classmates passed away, Christina Welch. And her loss kind of hit me, again. Not as hard as Heather, but it was enough. The thing is-is that Christina did not like me—at all really, and I had never been too understanding of her either. Her memorial was today, and actually it continues presently, as I type this. I wanted to go, however I felt as if it might be inappropriate, and still I knew that if I didn’t at least make an attempt I would regret it. So, I drove to the Ye Kendall Inn, where Christina’s memorial is being held, and I stood in the doorway for a few moments, and I looked around the room—the memorial was beautiful, but still it felt too intimate for me; someone who, as far as anyone else there might be concerned, was there only for the recognition of having been there, and the free food—so I paid my own respects from the doorway, and I left.
I knew someone many years ago who remained close with Christina, and one of the first thoughts circling through my head when I learned that Christina had passed away was of Christina’s friend, this someone who I had once known, I wanted to reach out to her, and to express my own compassion—in some way other than “I’m sorry for your loss.”—really just do acknowledge what she, and everyone else would be going through. I could not do it. I thought about reaching out to her for days, and even came close a number of times, but in the end I couldn’t.
I think differently that many people do. I process life, and people, and ideas, and situations, and death very differently than is normal, and throughout my adult life I have made it a point to develop what I consider a talent out of the way that I process things, and as I develop it more and more, fewer and fewer people make sense to me, although the few people that do hold a more profound and essential place in my heart, and in my life. The same process has allowed me to recognize that regardless of how well I may have been able to understand Christina it was still important for me to acknowledge her, and her life, and those that will be continue to be afflicted by her loss.
Those of you who are reading this that know Christina or Heather or Mary-Beth or Marina or Ben and for those of you that did not, and yet have inevitably suffered loss I ask you to consider that they are not lost, but that they will continue to exist, and not just in our memory or our hearts, but quite literally within us. We knew them in one way only, a way that allowed us to see them, and to hold them, and to laugh with them, but now we have to learn how to know them differently: imagine how you felt when they were around, at the best times, or the worst, when one of us suffered and the other brought solace all you have to do is think about those moments and the feelings will resurface and with that you will feel them again, as well. Imagine if their feelings, in the way that they only were capable of feeling and understanding and relating to them was shared with your own every time you thought about them.
If that is difficult for you to do try considering the possibility that we made a mistake when accepting the idea that we were created in the physical image of God, and that instead we were created in the emotional image of God, and that we’re capable of relating to-, and experiencing those that we lost exactly as they were—in their emotional image. I am affected by death but I rarely feel loss and I rarely feel sadness, because were some people cannot learn to relate to someone that has passed away differently, and in that place where they once occupied they feel emptiness, I still feel them, and I know that we are all capable of finding people that we thought were lost if we are willing to relate to them a little differently. I take comfort in knowing that Christina is still here, and I hope that the idea might offer some comfort to those of you whom are having difficulty finding it.
I drove into San Antonio earlier this afternoon to run an errand at my bank. I live in Boerne which is roughly 30 miles north of SA along I-10, though when I make the trip I usually take the backroads, it might be slightly longer, and in part because the traffic on I-10 between Boerne and SA is ridiculous, and there is a considerable amount of construction along the entirety of the route, and the surrounding area is one of the fastest growing in the nation. So, the backroads are nice. The road is surrounded still by Oak and Cedar. I listen to-, and sing along with music from the moment I get into my car to the moment I step out. This afternoon I put on a playlist that I haven’t listened to in a while. It was a nice drive.
After my errand I stopped by Half Price Books at The Strand in/or near Huebner Oaks. I often make that stop before taking the trip home. If there is anything I need to pick up for my store I will and I’ll browse the bookshelves for new arrivals, and hopefully a signed copy or a first edition that one of the employees missed that will fit nicely into my collection or I’ll upload to the website, and I’ll browse the DVD’s just in case something catches my eye, but more often than not I leave empty handed. There is also a cute dark haired woman that I occasionally make an effort to speak with. I left empty handed today.
I continued home, and took a little detour out of my way to get back onto the backroads to Boerne, and I finished my playlist on the way. The last song that played was Convenience Stores by Buddy Wakefield which is actually spoken word, it’s “slam poetry.” The playlist ended about two miles from my house. I decided not to listen to anything else. Instead I sat in silence. As I was sitting at the last light before turning on to my street and heading home my mind wandered slightly, and I was enveloped with a thought that I have had, on occasion, when lying in bed waiting for sleep, and that thought was followed, per usual, with me wishing that I would remember this, and ideas similar to this, while I’m wide awake in the middle of the day, only the thought that followed this afternoon was slightly different because I was, in fact, remembering this while I was wide awake, in the middle of the day. I realized that it was contributed largely to the fact that I was sitting in silence, with the exception of the ambient noises of the world, outside the car. We all wish that we would remember various thoughts that pass through our minds late at night while falling asleep. Buddy Wakefield, in point of fact, has a great line in his poem Information Man that reads:
“I know there are times when you will lay your head to rest and have a moment of brilliance that will grow into a perfect order o words, but you will fall asleep instead of painting in down on paper. When you wake up you will have forgotten the idea completely, and miss it, like a front tooth, but, at least, you know how to recognize moments of brilliance, because even at your worst you are f&$king incredible. It comes, honest.”
All of our thoughts, and our ideas, our perfect order of words that we have a desire to hold on to are all still there, rattling around in our heads, but how often—really—do we sit in silence, allowing them to resurface? In a complete and repose stillness without the slightest expectation. I was sitting at the light looking through the window and I was not thinking, no I was listening, and not to anything in particular: I was listening to the sound of the air conditioner which I rarely hear, and how the sound of the air changed as it was introduced to the fabrics of my shirt and the seat that I was resting on, I was noticing the different shades of green in the grass near the intersection, and in my mind I pictured the area devoured in construction as it had been only a few months earlier. In the silence I heard my thought almost as if I was consciously intruding on a conversation with my subconscious and a passing energy, I heard the thought as if eaves dropping on a nearby conversation and entering it midway through, and then I became completely conscious of it.
I suppose you could call it a form of meditation.
That reminds me—bear with me this short tangent—there has been a video recently of Russell Brand practicing Kundalini Yoga, and specifically the Ego Eradicator pose, I have always found yoga to be physical and mentally rewarding, however while Brand was teaching and then practicing Breath of Fire, a breathing technique, and I was mirroring the exercise I could not shake the thought of how unnatural Breath of Fire [breathing] actually was, how can anything that requires an unnatural processes of breathing be anything more than superficially enlightening or beneficial? I’m sure there are a number of people that will blindly argue the point without really thinking about it, but it’s important, I think, to not lose sight of why we meditate or practice yoga, we do not do this simply for the sake of doing, and yoga really is not a “way of life.” We practice yoga and meditation in order to better understand and relate to ourselves, and to our world. It seems apparent to me that somewhere along the way many people have forgotten that, it is incredible important to be conscious about the balance we maintain of our body, our heart, and our mind.
Fortunately, and in point of fact, the problem is the same regarding our attitude towards silence, and not that we are deliberately avoiding it (though I’m sure some folks are), I believe that the simple truth is that we are no longer conscious of the consistency of a resounding noise. I do think about it occasionally, but as Kenny Loggins puts it:
“You say you’re aware, believe, and you care, but do you care enough? To talk with conviction of the heart?”
I’m as guilty of it as anyone. As I said myself, “from the moment I get into my car to the moment I step out” I’m listening to-, and singing along with music. Even now, as I write this, I have Pandora playing my St. Thomas playlist—Sean Watkins’ Starve Them to Death at the moment—nevertheless I believe that there are layers of issues that we’re consumed by, and I know it’s impossible to turn on the radio, or television, or social media or to even get groceries without hearing about-, or being reminded of our inherent problems, and how every day it seems like another revolution claims to understand the root of our problems. And, perhaps, in some ways, the constant noise makes it easier to drown all of that out, the irony of course is that if you cannot live in silence you’re always going to have to fill that space with something, maybe at night, while your mind wonders, you’ll tell yourself to try to remember, tomorrow, the sound of silence.
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.