Friday, December 22, 2006

Myth and truth : "so true that it can't be real"

I have been interested in myths for a long time. Initially, when I was a kid,  I liked them as nice ('unreal') stories. As I explored them further, and as I became older, I became more interested in the deep truths expressed through the myths. I understood that myths are 'non-facts' that are truer than facts.

However, probably because of my science background, I was a still a bit uneasy that myths are not 'real'/factually correct. A few days ago, I realized that in order to be able to express deep truths, myths can't afford to be real.

If myths have to entirely real, then myths would also be constrained by the limitations of physical reality (time, space, context etc.) and hence they won't be able to express deep truths that goes beyond the physical plane. A myth is something so true that it can't be real. Or, to put it in another way, myths have to be liberated from their geographical and historical context so that they can speak to human beings across time and and space! A myth is a story that keeps on happening again and again in the collective subjective reality of human beings.

Let us look at a very common example. Dragons never existed on earth. However, we find stories about dragons in practically all cultures. Now, the reason for the popularity of the dragon myth is the deep truths contained in it. A dragon is 'a snake that has learned to fly'. The myth of a dragon  symbolizes the ability of human beings to rise above the animal nature and to raise above their limitations.  If some real animal was chosen instead of the dragon, there would have been a limited effectiveness in the symbolization/expression - constrained/contaminated by the physical features of the animal. Moreover, it could have created a situation where it could be argued that 'since this animal is found only in these countries, the myth is relevant only only in those contexts' etc.

Sometimes, we have to go beyond reality to express deep truths !!!

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