donderdag 18 september 2014

We Need a Myth?

The book and movie Life of Pi, which perfectly illustrates two different versions of looking at a certain event (from a rational one versus a religious, magical one), got me thinking about myth-making. The story is basically an argument for the existence of God.

I think it also perfectly represents our times and is best explained with a concept by Max Weber which he called: "the disenchantment of the world", a process of rationalization in a secularized modern bureaucratized Western world, a world which has lost deeper values and meanings ... Life of Pi wants to enchant the world once again by returning to the myth as a deeper truth, to better connect with us on a deeper level, by ways of powerful storytelling. It's leans heavily on aesthetics: the mythical version of the story is beautiful and brings hope and optimism, the actual realistic version is ugly, dark and meaningless. Now what version of the story would you choose?

In a way this also explains why so many people are believers, otherwise we might easily lapse into nihilism.

The need for a myth of course relates to Carl Jung's concept of collective unconscious and archetypes: universal thought patterns we inherented from our ancestors and which are part of our biological make up, and in ways to Joseph Campbell's monomyth: cyclic journey of the hero (Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings also follow the monomyth structure). George Lucas even did so on purpose. All of these stories connect with us on a deeper level.

With our pluralistic society comes confusion, confusion of identity, of belonging, a lost sense of meaning...These films all have a mythical sense to them and might actually replace our need for religious myths, or perhaps fill a certain void. I remember Nietzsche saying myths serve a purpose of generating life-affirmating attitudes.

We need a myth
We need an amethyst bridge
We need a high hanging cliff
Jump, fall, and lift
We can make it

But we need a myth
We need a path through the mist
Like in our beds, we were just kids
Like what was said by our parents

A myth
Guess what we're after is just this
A myth
Guess what we're after is just this

We need a myth
I feel my heart's like a fist
Words spilling out of the blessed lips
Of any prophet or goddess

I need a myth
Brought back to life by a kiss
Scrape away grey cement
Show me the world as it was again
As it was in a myth

A red ribbon to reconnect
The lady's head to her neck
And to forget that her throat
Was ever slit

Guess what we're after is just this
It's a myth
Guess what we're after is just this

Oh, and I'm sick of all these picture books that try
To steal some old reflections for their light
But desperate measures point to desperate times
And that's why
We need a myth

We're cut adrift
And we need a mass uplift
The world is trembling and weeping
Just at the point of believing
In a myth

The sun that shines on my head
The moon that lights me to bed
Were two identical twins
Inside of a myth

I heard the voice of a friend
On Lethe's banks, wading in
And he said
"Well, before I forget
We need a myth

And as we lean in to kiss
To get two nails through the wrist
To get covered in blood
And get covered in spit
And to forgive."

If all we're taught is a trick
Why would this feeling persist?
And with the truth closing in
I must insist:
We need a myth. 

Song by Okkervil River:

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