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Old 05-26-2022, 08:20 PM   #1
sundialsvcs
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Thought question: "So, does 'myth' matter anymore?"


These days, we seem to want certainty. Nothing less will do. But, in the various historical periods which concern us in this forum – both "turn of the B.C." and many centuries before – "factual certainty" could not have existed, even if various religions and religious authorities [presumptuously?] laid claim to it.

Instead, we had: "myth." Traditional stories that were carefully handed down – at first, verbally – from parents to their children, and very often "drilled into them" so that in due time they could pass them along to their children in like manner. When "writing and scrolls" were invented, equally-detailed procedures were developed so that the sacred writings would be passed down without error.

Every human society developed its own tale of "First Man" and "First Woman." Each also developed its own interpretation of how order emerged from primordial chaos. There is no realm of human philosophical inquiry which is more diverse than this.

In some dictionary listings, the word "myth" unfortunately implies "falseness." The second listing for this term in my Apple Dictionary is: "a widely held but false belief or idea." I find this to be both unfortunate and short-sighted. There is no [objective] standard of "falseness" to which mythology can be held, because mythology by definition creates its own standards. Therefore, anyone who declares it to be "false" is on the outside, looking in. The mythology never considers itself to be "false," and so I submit that the pejorative of "falseness" ought never be applied to it.

To me, "myth" is an important cultural resource – and all of our religious writings are chock-full of it. They represent the efforts of people to understand both the world around them and their own particular place in it. They cannot now be judged for lacking any "scientific" perspective that (maybe?) they could not have known ... although unfortunately all records of whatever genuinely-scientific knowledge they might have possessed might also have been lost.

So – I'd just like to advance the "discussion point" that mythology is both a very important and a very foundational part of religion, and that we ought to embrace it as such. "Religion is not ignorant." Instead, it is a key part of "who we all are." And, it is not at odds with "science."

Historians are left with only tiny glimmers of the "scientific knowledge" that might have been lost. For example, some people believe that they have found an Egyptian electrical storage battery. But I think it safe to suggest that "science" and "religion" – and of course, "political realities" – have always existed side-by-side.

"Science" ... "Religion" ... "Myth" ... what a rich tapestry we now have.

Fortunately, this is not the world of Harry Potter, in which "neither may live while the other survives." Perhaps our ancestors were a whole lot more like us than we realize, and a whole lot more informed.

As for me, I've never expected "certainty" from religion. And so, I've never judged it for having not produced it. My intellectual highway consists of many "lanes," with clear boundaries between them which are not meant to be crossed.

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 05-27-2022 at 08:14 AM.
 
Old 05-26-2022, 09:28 PM   #2
frankbell
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Well, it's not just religion that's chock full of myths.

So too is history. As one who trained as an historian, I can attest that what many persons believe about American history (my field of study) is just are not so. It's stuff that didn't happen that way. It's myth. And today we see persons in positions of authority in the U. S. who would perpetuate those myths over factual, proven reality.

I do not consider that a beneficent effort.

Myths can be powerful allegories (there's an excellent docuseries on Netflix about myths and legends entitled "Myths and Monsters"). But, when persons elevate myths over proven factual reality, the results are seldom beneficial; indeed, they are more likely to be inimical.

I will offer this quote from Baudelaire:

Quote:
God is the only being who need not even exist in order to reign.
(Source)

Just my two cents.

Last edited by frankbell; 05-26-2022 at 09:30 PM. Reason: style
 
Old 05-27-2022, 01:57 AM   #3
ondoho
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@frankbell: Mandela Effect? Some people "believe" in it, say it's a glitch in the matrix.
 
Old 05-27-2022, 05:45 AM   #4
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I would define a myth as a certain type of story, in the same way that a western or a whodunnit is a certain type of story. If I tell you that a book or film is a western, you will know more or less what it will contain: cowboys and indians, gunfights in the street at high noon, bank robbers with scarves tied over their mouths, bars with swing doors, the sheriff and his posse. What you will not know is whether the story is true or not. Most westerns are pure fiction. But Dodge City and Deadwood were real places. Wyatt Earp and Calamity Jane were real people. And there really was a gunfight at the OK Corral (or just behind it) even if it wasn't much like the films.

In the same way, a myth is a story whose characters and events are archetypes in the Jungian sense and which therefore cannot be understood rationally but only by an effort of the imagination. Like a western, a myth is usually not a true record of events, but it could be one without ceasing to be a myth if it is that kind of story with that kind of content. Atthis never existed but Jesus, who played out the same mythical story, was real.

I think the historical stories that Frankbell describes are legends rather than myths. They are not factual but they are based on history (as indeed most westerns are) and not on imaginative archetypes. Harry Potter is partly mythical though. Most of the series is simply a mix of high fantasy and boarding school saga, but Harry himself is the Chosen One, the hero who must die to save the world and who will then come back to life again. I would call that a myth.
 
Old 05-27-2022, 02:46 PM   #5
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I generally think of "myth" as being "the stories that are told when the objective truth cannot be known." The myth thus becomes a part of the society's fundamental social traditions ... and, I think, it should be prized for being so.

Let us not burden our own society's myths – because every society has them – with "true or false." And, let us not too-carefully judge them when they say things that "don't quite ring true" against our "modern" (sic ...) understandings.

Just like "science," mythology is a valid way that humans use to try to understand and rationalize their world. They've been doing this for thousands of years. Today, we really don't "know much more" than they did. (In fact, in many cases we no longer know what they did know.) Who are we to judge? And, why do we need to? (We don't.) These men and women held their beliefs sincerely. We should respect them for that, and embrace all of this as part of our global cultural history.

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 05-27-2022 at 02:49 PM.
 
Old 05-27-2022, 04:49 PM   #6
enorbet
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It is my sincere conviction that Myth, the allegorical stories (even if they didn't start that way most have ended up allegories) are still important as the roots of culture as well as Art. Myth can be written stories, oral history, or acted out in some form of Morality Play, like Roman Coliseum one-sided pseudo history to reinforce Roman values.

However, sundialsvcs, and I'm confidant you saw this coming, it is a massive misrepresentation if not (willful?) ignorance of Science to assert "Today, we really don't "know much more" than they did".

I'm wondering about "willful" since my longtime interaction with sundialsvcs, whom I respect for his encyclopedic knowledge of Literature and History, but I can't even begin to reconcile your knowledge of the fundamental living conditions and state of knowledge about Nature of ancient times with the vast differences in the 20th and 21st Centuries. However I am admittedly biased in that I consider Edgar Allan Poe's poem castigating Science for having "driven the Hamadryad from the wood" as possessing a childish POV. To me, a flower is all the more beautiful and wondrous knowing how the Nitrogen Cycle and Photosynthesis works.

It took many thousands of years to know that an atomic scale actually existed, hundreds to verify that atoms are real, several more to be able to see some, and now anyone with moderate skills can build a tunneling microscope capable of seeing atoms for under $100 from off-the-shelf components or kits. The progress is real... and almost unimaginably massive.
 
Old 05-27-2022, 08:36 PM   #7
sundialsvcs
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Actually, @enorbet, what I am actually referring to is the fact that "the knowledge of a prior civilization can so very easily be lost ... forever." Did the Egyptians actually know about electricity? We cannot now tell. Did they know of "more efficient means than brute slave labor" to construct their pyramids, and what sort of surveying techniques might they have used to position them so precisely? All of this knowledge now appears to be ... lost.

It is very easy to "dismiss" ancient civilizations, perhaps because we have lost what [we do not now know that ...] they actually knew.

When I refer now to "myth," I'm speaking of the thought systems that these people employed in their times. So far as we are aware, they did not possess "scientific" knowledge, although it is certainly possible that in fact they did. They constructed and then maintained these "cultural stories," and built their civilizations around them.

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 05-27-2022 at 08:39 PM.
 
Old 05-28-2022, 09:27 AM   #8
enorbet
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Yes some knowledge is lost. I forget who said it or even it's exact wording but recall words to the effect of "That which is employed, gains. What is not, wastes away" There can be no doubt that once cars became popular the apocalyptic writing on the wall for buggy whip makers.

At the time the Pyramids and similar technologies were occurring they had few, if any alternatives, no distractions, and lived in autocratic societies where the will and resources of a very few leaders was law. I marvel at the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids, but I don't romanticize it by wishing we still lived in such times. I'm glad for the progress, in large driven by Science.

As for ancient Science, they had the beginnings ever since, if not to a lesser degree even before, once written language was possible, practical, and needed. They just had yet to formalize the process. A person can develop a sort of scientific progeression by trial and error, but it is far more quick and effective if one has a plan, a formula. It also contains the possibility, if not the likelihood, that developing a plan causes a "boiling down" to the fundamentals that apply to many fields, many endeavors. Thus, progress gathers momentum.

When my Grandfather was in High School his home town still had hitching posts on Main Street and nothing flew in the sky but birds. He lived through biplanes, then commercial flight, then regular commercial jets over head and since I know you imagine the Moon Landing was a hoax, I'll hope you don't also doubt the photos from the Viking Lander on Mars. Talk about momentum!.. in one lifetime!... and it has not slowed overall.

There has been a growing sentiment, if not thought process, that it would be a good idea if all the leaders on Earth were as part of inauguration, taken into low Earth orbit to get the visceral impact in their bones by seeing our Earth as an All In, All For One, One For All, vulnerable and possibly irreplaceable (at least for the foreseeable future) Home for which we have become it's Landlords, for better or for worse, and make better choices.

I imagine that 100 years from now, some Mythology will exist around the raw beginnings of Spaceflight, Computing, The Internet, AI, etc etc. Maybe it will be taught in schools on Mars.
 
Old 05-30-2022, 01:29 PM   #9
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Is this a mass migration from the "Faith & Religion" thread?

I couldn't agree less with Post #1. Going back three thousand years, every single nation believed in the Flood, or had a tradition saying it actually happened, and believed that. It was part of their history, much like the Battle of Hastings is for the English, or similar events. For so many to know it, the histories obviously converged at some point further back, because many never met each other. But today, that's viewed as legend, or rubbish.

And what do we know? We can't even find out what's going on today! You're bombarded by advertising or other propaganda at every hand's turn. We can all finish so many advertising slogans - they are ingrained in us. There's a thread here looking for unbiased news sources. The consensus seems to be that the best you can hope for is "Less Biased."

Networks in the Excited States have a known political biases. Social media is a plethora of viewpoints, few of them balanced. We hardly blink at young Muslims being 'radicalized.' Young folk increasingly develop radical views leading to terrorism, mass shootings. In a chilling fulfillment of George Orwell's "1984" Nations are manipulating the media & internet.

I don't think this generation is in any position to pronounce on fact. Maybe on Newspeak.
 
Old 05-31-2022, 10:12 AM   #10
enorbet
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The Battle of Hastings is like The Flood, since everywhere didn't have those. They all had battles and floods which is why they have similar histories and myths in common. Trying to conflate that to Universal is a serious and totally unsupportable mistake. Just FTR and in ant attempt to NOT turn this thread into a footnote for Faith and Religion thread, it is entirely possible and even likely that a person can believe in the value of the bible (ANY bible) while accepting that the Christian Biblical Flood is at best, allegory. There really is no other thoughtful conclusion since a global flood is absolutely impossible and even if you invent some means byu which it would be possible there is no credible evidence it happened and tons of evidence that it didn't occur.

...And this my friends is the downside of Myth, when people try to take myth as literal even when not translated from the very earliest written languages several times and totally without context for thousands of years....total Jabberwocky.

Myth is valuable as long as it is seen for what it is - mythology. It's best not to try to make mountains out of molehills.

Last edited by enorbet; 06-01-2022 at 07:25 PM.
 
Old 05-31-2022, 02:58 PM   #11
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@enorbet: Indeed, this is why I can read many things in "the Bible," and other such texts, without feeling any need to take them literally – let alone to defend them as being literal. (And yet, I will not engage with someone who disagrees with me. Who am I to say that "I must be right?" When the foundations of this world were laid, I wasn't there either.)

I am certainly intrigued at the idea that the entire Middle Eastern region might have at one time experienced a massive flood. I can't visualize where the boundaries of "the basin" might have been. The fact that stories of "the Flood™" do appear in several ancient legend systems of some places, and yet never-at-all in the legend systems of other places, is very interesting to me. I have no answer.

And this is certainly a big part of what mythology is all about. You ponder how many of these ancient stories might actually have had a physical basis – now lost in time, but tenaciously preserved(?) by myth. This is one of many reasons why I believe that both mythology and science and philosophy must be treasured and preserved as parts of our collective human heritage, and not held too-closely one against the other. Our ancestors spoke in the ways of myth, and they had something to say.

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 05-31-2022 at 03:02 PM.
 
Old 05-31-2022, 04:04 PM   #12
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I have seen you, sundialsvcs, use that metric a lot, the "I wasn't there" mantra. However as much as you seem to know (and accept) about History leads me to think you use that only when convenient. I have never been to Rome and I obviously have never met Julius Caesar but I have a reasonable level of confidence that he did exist. That some wrote they hated him while others exalted him helps confidence as that seems all too human. That he was cremated seems likely since so many witnesses wrote fairly consistent reports of the event. That coins were emblazoned with his likeness helps but more importantly in light of the timeline of Rome, including the Gallic Wars and Civil Wars, if it wasn't someone named Julius Caesar it was someone who did all the things Caesar is said to have done. He, whatever name we prefer, was an Emperor of Rome around 59BC. That much seems fairly solid, deserving of some confidence, even though "I wasn't there".

Since mountains existed in the time that Noah was supposed to be alive, plate tectonics had obviously been active for millions of years, so Young Earthers can kick rocks, and yes I will call them out on such ill-logic. Having an Open Mind doesn't mean "Anything Goes".

There is not enough water on Earth to engulf all the land. Many civilizations have Flood Myths which makes logical sense since most early civilizations sprang up very close to water. By Noah's time water meant Sea Ports for most civilizations. Flooding was a fact of life and still is in some places. Many of them claim World Flood since to them their civilization was the whole world. No hand built boat could possibly hold two of every species on Earth. Noah and his family are not enough biological diversity to have spawned everyone who has been born ever since. I could go on and on but as I said there is ZERO evidence for global flood, let alone one family surviving with every species on Earth, and mountains of diverse repeatable evidence against. The whole story is hopelessly provincial and small minded. So yes, in my view, it is only fitting that people who know such facts (backed by more than one ancient account) speak out against forcing literal interpretation on Myth.

That doesn't mean that one chapter is useless not does that reflect on the value of the entire tome IF it is not forced into literal idiocy.
 
Old 05-31-2022, 08:38 PM   #13
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@enorbet: "The physical reality of Julias Ceasar" is very likely well beyond doubt. And, therefore, the fact that "we weren't there" has zero relevance to "when the foundations of the world were laid." In one context, "someone could have been," while in the other, "no one could have been." Yeah, we got this.

Knowing that (of course) it is physically impossible that "the entire planet was covered by water," (and "all the species of life on earth" ditto-ditto ...), I nonetheless find it intriguing that the myths of some cultures – particularly, those in some parts of this planet – contain "flood myths," while the myths of other cultures never did.

The "flood myth" cultures seem to be – perhaps(?) – "similarly geographically situated?" How interesting ...

Therefore, "I innocently wonder why."

Might there have been some actual historical event which all of these myths, each in their own way, might have "recorded?" Of course we can never know.

Nonetheless: "How interesting. How very interesting ..."

---
But: here's one thing that you'll never see me do – "fighting for someone else's myth."

---
And, indeed, perhaps we should resume this discussion on "Faith and Religion Mega?" Because this is maybe straying away from my particular discussion of "myth."

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 05-31-2022 at 08:52 PM.
 
Old 06-01-2022, 09:42 AM   #14
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sundialsvcs we can argue whether or not Time as humans define it actually exists or is merely a construct based on how we perceive things but really it makes little difference when kept consistent, much like how Newton still works just fine within the boundaries known by Newton. We perceive an "Arrow of Time", that effects never precede causes. Changes may become buried or hidden but they never just disappear. While the various CSI shows exaggerate this fact, usually by introducing technological capability that doesn't yet exist, the fundamentals are valid, just like the rings of trees and the layers of ice in glaciers, whether on Earth or elsewhere since, so far, everywhere we look, the basic laws of Physics are the same.

In short nobody has to "have been there" to discover what happened. We may not be able to say that an impact by an extraterrestrial body was the sole cause of all larger dinosaurs demise, but we know for a fact the impact occurred and that it was a very high percentage at the very least of the cause of the extinction. The crater, fracture glass, and iridium exist and can be found as an unusual layer the world over. This is extreme and unique evidence of a fairly massive impact, a body the size of Mt Everest actually. From that we can calculate it's mass and velocity and thus the force of the impact, how much energy would be released and it's degree of devastation. It happened for certain and contributed heavily to the mass extinction that literally paved the way for the process that would result in Homo Sapiens. None were there at the time, but the effects are "writ large" and indelible.

I suppose it could be argued (though rather silly) that our ancestors were there but there is no evidence our mouse-sized ancestors were in possession of sufficiently advanced cognitive faculties to understand such an impact, let alone record it. That wouldn't happen until further adaptations over roughly 65,000,000 years would make that possible.... rings of trees and sediment, sundialsvcs... the path is emblazoned and actual "trackers" can follow it.

FWIW had there been some primitive lifeform capable of written chronicles it does make some sense their would indeed be myths surrounding such a global event BUT unless such a lifeform was more technologically and intellectually advanced than we in 2022, tyhe mythology would be colorful, interesting and of historical value but not as accurate as a more advanced civilization sifting through the effects.

Last edited by enorbet; 06-01-2022 at 09:46 AM.
 
Old 06-01-2022, 02:07 PM   #15
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Well, I prefer to believe that "our ancestors" were every bit as worldly, capable, smart, inventive, and ornery, as all of us today now are. They just possessed a different set of technology. (Although, due to the ravages of time, we might seriously under-estimate the level of technology that they did possess, and we should always keep that in mind.)

I have no idea if "myths" might account for meteor impacts and the demise of dinosaurs.

I am also very skeptical of any talk of "millions of years." (With due respect to Dr. Carl Sagan, RIP.)

To me, "billions-and-billions™ is a hand-wave." An artful dodger. If the little birdy doesn't pop out of the hat right now, I don't expect it to do so "sixty-five million years from now." This sort of thing simply tells me that there is yet another thing that we don't know (yet).

This thought does not disturb me. Not at all. In fact, I think it's kind of cool ...

(But does this concern "myth," or do we need to move back over to the "F&R Mega Thread?" It seems to be feeling a bit lonely lately ...)

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 06-01-2022 at 02:12 PM.
 
  


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