Before we can choose productive myths for our lives we must be sure to weed out the bogus myths first. Some of these will be very deeply rooted, and therefore harder to deal with.
One of the marks of a bogus myth is that it acts like carrot-and-stick persuasion. So, for example, if we take a look at some political myths, we'll see that the parties that uphold "freedom" often use that buzzword as a cover for something they are, in fact, taking away.
Republican Party Myths
For instance, the Republican Party in the United States wants citizens to keep their guns, since everyone is entitled to hunt and protect themselves; yet, the party does not work to protect the jobs of so many of its poorest voters. We get to keep our guns but not our jobs, which are outsourced to other countries. We have our "freedom" but at a cost.
Similarly the Republican rhetoric around the health care debate was that we should be "free" to choose our health care, which means that the government should not help us to get health care since that would impact our freedom to choose. Now, this makes no sense. It's like saying to a starving person that since giving him food would be the equivalent to telling him how to run his life it's less coercive, and therefore healthier, to let him starve.
Again, the Republican Party has in recent times consistently campaigned against new taxes, and even fought to repeal existing taxes so we can keep more of our hard-earned dollars. At the same time, during the tenure of George W. Bush it deregulated Wall Street, thereby allowing certain people to rob most of us of our saved dollars and retirement funds without any recourse in law. They did this all in the name of "freedom."
Pseudo-Myths Leave Us Feeling Angry & Cheated
Now, I'm not just taking a cheap shot at a specific political party; I'm looking at this from the point of view of what the image might be that we're buying into when we accept such strange logic. When we see this series of contradictions, we might suspect a pseudo-myth has been created in order to manipulate us.
The purpose of a successful myth is to bring us into a place of greater acceptance of life's contradictions and problematic areas. An unsuccessful myth, a pseudo-myth, tends to leave us feeling angry and cheated instead.
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Democratic Party Myths
On the other side of the fence are myths that are just as questionable, associated with the Democratic Party. One of these myths is that providing assistance to the most vulnerable will eventually make our society "better." This is a fine and compassionate aim, but in practical terms it too often has the result of infantilizing those who are not capable, often at tremendous cost to society as a whole.
If we are to support all those who need and deserve support, and do so adequately, then we'll face a considerable shortfall of resources very soon. The world's population is growing, and the world itself is straining to provide for us all. Sooner or later this myth, as presently constituted, will lose credibility.
The real situation is that we have a duty to help the unfortunate, educate and empower them, so that they do not become passive recipients of welfare and can once again be an active part of our society. It's eminently possible to do this, but it requires a massive infrastructure. It demands the care, love, and devotion of many citizens — and a humane point of view shared by all those who will pay for it.
This is, I'm sure you'll admit, more than a simple "tax hike" to fund "vital services" can achieve on its own, which is the way it's presented to the electorate. This compassionate vision requires a whole other way of doing things, a totally different way of thinking about citizenship, money, and resources. Yet, all too often, the problem gets boiled down to an either-or political equation, where we view one party's myths as hopelessly flawed but not our own.
A Stalemate: The Collision of Two Myths
Whenever we come across this sort of stalemate we can be fairly sure that two myths are colliding. The trouble is that our reality seems to require us to believe different parts of both myths. We yearn for a world of peace and compassion and respect for all, in which we come to know our divine nature as creatures that are a part of the infinite universe. Yet we also wonder how we're ever going to pay for it. We're afraid that if we are peaceful then others will attack us. How can we balance these two aspects? It seems impossible.
If we change the terms of discussion, though, we may find a way forward. The real struggle for each and every one of us is not just against the outer world of threat but against the ways in which the ego can lead us to selfishness and mere materiality. We must seek, somehow, to live successfully in both worlds. We must be compassionate and decisive, and that is not easy.
The Need for a Collective Myth
Unfortunately, as it stands right now, we have no public myth we can tap into that can help us confront this situation — it is simply a grim fact of life, which people face with courage or desperation. We have no collective myth that allows us to view the present situation as anything other than a confrontation of political values.
The lack of a guiding myth at this time in history prevents us from dealing with the very real and urgent problems we face. So, Global Warming and Climate Change are left under-addressed. The crisis of overpopulation is dealt with piecemeal, country by country, or not at all. And the list goes on.
©2012 Allan G. Hunter. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Findhorn Press. www.findhornpress.com
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Spiritual Hunger: Integrating Myth and Ritual into Daily Life
by Allan G. Hunter.
From daily activities such as work and eating to milestones such as graduation and marriage, this discussion debates the myths that guide lifestyles and questions why they exist in the first place. This guide to rituals paves the way to sustaining a fulfilling and happy life and demonstrates how to reinvent old, outdated rituals; get rid of those rites that are entirely ineffective; and create new habits that provide a deeper meaning to everyday life.
About the Author
Allan G. Hunter was born in England in 1955 and completed all his degrees at Oxford University, emerging with a doctorate in English Literature in 1983. In 1986, after working at Fairleigh Dickinson University's British campus and at Peper Harow Therapeutic Community for disturbed adolescents, he moved to the US. For the past twenty years he has been a professor of literature at Curry College in Massachusetts, and a therapist. Four years ago he began teaching with the Blue Hills Writing Institute working with students to explore the memoir and life-writing. As in all his books, his emphasis is on the healing nature of the stories we weave for ourselves if we choose to connect to the archetypal tales of our culture. For more, see http://allanhunter.net.