Recently Wired magazine published an interview with Richard Dawkins. This interview got me to thinking about mythology. Most, if not all, cultures and groups have a mythology. Usually this is expressed in religious terms. Usually it is used to refer to a religion in which you don't believe. Here you see the two basic meanings academics give to myths. They are usually religious stories that are considered to be false.
Mythology isn't just about religion. Mythology is about imbuing your world with meaning. To say a myth is true or false is to miss its import. At root, a myth is an central idea around which you organize your beliefs. Through your myth you explain the world, give meaning to it. Myths are created to answer the questions
- Who am I?
- How did the world come to be?
- What am I to the world and what is the world to me?
- What will become of me when I die?
Your mythology is the lens through which you view the world. Your mythology forms your core beliefs. As I said in As You Believe, beliefs are ideas to which you have an ego attachment. They may be true in an objective sense. They may not. Often they are totally alogical, unable to be proven one way or the other. They are the source of many minor beliefs, and most of our emotional reactions. A capitalist believes in the myth of freemarkets. A communist believes in the myth of cooperative ownership and mutually beneficial labor. A Christian believes in the myth of Jesus. A Hindu believes in the myth of Nirvana. A follower of Islam believes in the myth of Allah. A New Ager believes in the myth of the law of attraction. A democrat beliefs in the myth of majority rule. A royalist believes in the myth of monarchy. An atheist believes in the myth of materialism. This says nothing about the truth or falsity of the belief. It says everything about how our myths are the defining beliefs around which we structure our view of the world.
Your mythology can have a positive or negative influence on your life. If you've never thought about it, write yourself a description of how the world is. You can base it on the four questions listed earlier. Then look at this description. It contains your personal mythology. Ask yourself some questions. Does it help you to be successful, however you define success? Or does it lead you to self-defeat? Does it help you be happy? Or does it make you unhappy? Does it cause you to engage with life? Or does it make you feel cut off from life? Does it make you feel safe in the world? Or does it make you feel unsafe?
The answers to these questions points the way to the starting points for what you need to change in your mythology to improve your life. Work on one thing at a time to change your mythology. You don't have to consciously try to make big changes in what you do. Change your beliefs about what you do. Take small steps to change your behavior in tune with the beliefs you are trying to instill. In time, what you do may change in big ways, but even more importantly your experience of the world will change. It may not be an easy task, but it is necessary if you want there to be lasting improvement in your life. What else were you going to do with the rest of your life?