We suffer. We endure. We find value in the ordeal. We are, in a sense, reborn by way of this. It’s all in the myths and I dare say we can reference a calendar – any calendar, Gregorian or otherwise – that in turn references them. Myths, that is.
And the above is not a myth in and of itself, of course, but rather a ritual associated with a myth. In this example, to do with the Christian mythology. Christian mythology, you ask? Why not Christian religion? If you’ve not read any of my work you won’t know that I classify all the contemplative traditions – all the so-called belief systems of the world and the cosmos, for that matter (here’s to science fiction!) – under the sheltering sky of mythology. Not to be regarded as untruths, mind you. Rather, as metaphors and beholden to the idea of true fictions. This theme will more or less play out by the end of the post, I promise.
Meanwhile, have you been stressed out lately? For the last two years going on three, perhaps? I have. What follows is a demonstration, let’s call it, of a little self examination trick I like to use referred to by the Buddhists in particular as R.A.I.N. It’s an acronym: Recognize. Allow. Investigate. Non-attach. And sometimes, it helps get me through. Off we go, then….
Recognize. My high anxiety over… what? The book. The books. Namely, the editing of TC2 – is it really just hackneyed crap that I’m paying to have vanity published? And the advertising of it. The cost of it, in all senses of the word, and everything attached to my authorpreneurship, such as it is. In the face of what amounts to a desperately unsustainable marketing plan. Desperately unsustainable? Yes. It fucking costs too much fucking money to keep not selling books. I poke around and see authors who sell and they’re not anything or anybody anything like me. Are they?
They are and they aren’t. Do I resemble anyone who has been successful? Am I doing anything right to get from where I am to where I want to be? Where do I want to be?
Allow. In the midst of yet more global conflict. Current events. We all endure the trials of our times in our own ways, mine happens to be by writing my way through it. Here and within the novels. Hopefully with an authenticity that arises from our collective mythic predispositions and not from either silly idealism nor troublesome didacticism (in the modern sense of the term).
Didacticism? In the modern sense of the term? Well, I read that the classical Greeks had no concept of learned discourse (for they apparently loved their learned discourse) “that appears to be overburdened with instructive, factual, or otherwise educational information, to the detriment of the enjoyment of the reader,” which is a definition borrowed from wikipedia.org. Something else I stumbled across upon Wikipedia while looking up, for whatever reason, the definition of the word jingoism, is the following, which points to current events while also demonstrating the long view of history and how there is nothing new under the sun and how our human conflicts are unfortunately part of being human:
“The chorus of a song by the songwriter G. W. Hunt and popularized by the singer G. H. MacDermott – which was commonly sung in British pubs and music halls around the time of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 – gave birth to the term. The lyrics included this chorus:
We don’t want to fight but by Jingo if we do
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too
We’ve fought the Bear before, and while we’re Britons true
The Russians shall not have Constantinople!
The capture of Istanbul was a long-standing Russian strategic aim, since it would have given the Russian Navy, based in the Black Sea, unfettered access to the Mediterranean Sea through The Bosphorus and the Dardanelles (known as the “Turkish Straits”); conversely, the British were determined to block the Russians, in order to protect their own access to India. At the time when the above song was composed and sung, the Russians were nearing their goal, through the Treaty of San Stefano; eventually, the British were able to push the Russians back by means of diplomatic pressure and the threat of war.”
Investigate. The ideologues – call them liberal or new age or who cares what you call them – would seek to expedite our so-called human potential. Peace in our time and all that. There is enough for everyone and war is to be abolished.
Whereas the authentically mythic perspective rather recognizes the light and the shadow within us – that the universe for better or worse is a play-of-opposites – and attempts to reconcile the disparity and painful reality of how things are with the aspiration of how things perhaps ought to be. There is a place for everyone who does not seek to appropriate the freedoms of others. But we are as different as we are the same and, sometimes, as we know, one person’s freedom is another person’s prison. That is to say, life is messy. And the radically leftist-minded apparently tend to toss meritocracy out the window in favor of a miserable existence for everyone.
What am I saying? Myth ≤ Metaphor. That’s all. And metaphor generates an unforeseen third thing from the comparison of two otherwise disparate things. This third thing transcends the limits of its comparative origins. Everyone is familiar with the idea of something being greater than the sum of its parts. The relationship between myth and metaphor – the unidirectional congruity, as I’ve oftentimes referred to it within this journal (of which this post is a part) – expresses a similar eminence on behalf of what amounts to the surprising, arresting, affecting images generated by myth.
We are the authors of myth and mythology. Hence, we somehow indeed must be capable of transcending our own play-of-opposite limits. Not permanently, otherwise we probably would have already managed to do that as humans. We don’t ever quite manage it. And it’s foolish and self-righteous and ultimately destructive, as history tells us, to attempt to ram the human race into a position reserved for the gods. We create the gods, or the god, yes. Or the Gods or God. We create our own divinities, and they are enshrined, enlivened and activated within our myths. All myths are our myths. Not in the colloquial usage of the term that seeks to describe myth as an untruth, a lie, an embellishment or something false. That is not the original use of the term. Usages change, of course, but it’s my opinion that whenever and however myth began to be considered commensurate with falsehood, it was a mistake. The Romantic perspective rather celebrates the truth within myth – myth as true fiction – and it is this that perhaps, in the end, I’m always writing about.
Non-attach. There is truth and wisdom to be had in the world. Every problem is not a new one. It can be argued that there is no problem that we as a human race have not already encountered a thousandfold. So that most often, we ought to know better. Which may describe the wisdom that seems so often to be lacking within this world.
We’re far too eager, it seems to me, to declare a thing “unprecedented,” for instance. Perhaps because we want to feel that we’re part of something bigger and more important, something that will haul us from our own personal sense of obscurity and unimportance and exile. I get it. We are biologically wired, as it were, to seek participation in something if not higher, than at least greater than our own life and our own oftentimes pitiful prospects. And so we dream and have visions of how things could be. We make up stories. We create the world as we would prefer to experience it within our own heads and some of us, me included, tend to prefer mostly residing within these worlds because, naturally, they are better than the real thing. Then again, since we are real enough, and we ourselves have created the stories, then at least some mysterious portion of our stories – our mythologies – must be real, too.
Some portion of our myths, our metaphors, that is, are more real to us, more engaging, more powerful, more true and more valuable than anything we can hold in our hands. We aspire to make our myths as real as they already seem to be within our hearts. What’s in our heads and hearts is a better story than the one we’re typically living. We seek this freedom and are ashamed to hope for it, yes. Why are we ashamed? Because we’re not worthy of it and never can be, really. We are the page of a book which always has two sides: light and shadow. And who among us really feels comfortable with, let alone reconciled with, our shadow? Hence, the unsettling quality of our myths.
We cannot make the world into how we want it to be. We cannot make ourselves entirely into what we want to be. Somehow, this is a good thing, in the end. For when, as the myth tells us, the genie grants your wish, you get everything else that comes with it. Too much of which we do not want. That is the lesson. For better or worse, we cannot control everything, and thank heaven. All we can do is to do our best to exert our influence. This is our choice, our freedom, namely, to choose the nature of the influence we prefer. The good, the bad or the ugly.
Otherwise, who can explain why things are the way they are? Why must it be such a mystery, this thing called life? I’ve concluded, after many decades of struggling with the questions – I was a philosophy major in college, after all – that it’s not my job to ask why. No. I’m rather more cut out to ask how. Let go of the why and you’re free to let the mystery be. You yourself are part of it, after all. Let the mystery be and rather live within your mythology, your version of your true fiction, which is how to live within and hopefully more in concert with the mystery that you yourself express. Seek your freedom, then. Hope for it. Acknowledge your shame and your inevitable shamelessness. Be who you are and celebrate the damn the mystery in spite of it all. Exert your influence. Live your true fiction. Drown your shamrocks.
P.S. For all it may mean to you, then, Happy St. Patrick’s Day.