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.

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. The myth of a dragon(a snake that has learned to fly) symbolizes the ability of human beings to rise above the animal nature, raise above limitations etc. 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 would have created a situation where some people would argue that "since this animal is found only in these countries, the truth is applicable only to these countries" etc.

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

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