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Words of Power #9: The Goblet of Fire, The Deep Magic and The Giant Sequoia
Bill Moyers: Myths are clues?
Joseph Campbell: Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life…
Bill Moyers: You changed the definition of a myth from the search for meaning to the experience of meaning.
Joseph Campbell: Experience of life. The mind has to do with meaning. What's the meaning of a flower. There's the Zen story about a sermon of the Buddha in which he simply lifted a flower. There was only one man who gave him a sign with his eyes that he understood what was said. Now, the Buddha himself is called "the one thus come". There's no meaning. What's the meaning of the universe? What's the meaning of a flea? It's just there. We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it's all about. http://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/functionsofmyth.html
"We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us - the labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world." http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell
The common use of the word “myth” (at least in American popular culture) reveals a disturbing spiritual malnutrition in the psyche of post-industrial society. A quick Google search is illustrative. Here are a few items pulled from a search on “Top Ten Myths:” Ten Myths about Jobs and Outsourcing, Ten Myths of Science Theory, Top Ten Myths about Human Cloning, Top Ten Myths about the Uninsured, Top 10 Myths About [Organ] Donation & Transplantation, Ten Myths about Open Source Software. The word has been widely adopted as a synonym for illusion, falsehood, superstition, untruth, etc.
But myth, in its purest sense, is a transformative and empowering agent of the Psyche; and it always finds new ways to reasserts itself, e.g, through personal creative vision in literature and cinema, as the popularity of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia demonstrate, Indeed, there is a global re-awakening to the Mythical and Magical dimensions of life, independent of dominant religious and cultural traditions.
Flying from London to Copenhagen, I sat next to several burly Norwegian oil-riggers on their way home for Christmas. They drank straight scotch and carried tins of chewing tobacco in their back pockets. As they rose from their seats to change plans for Oslo, they reached into the overhead compartments and pulled out shopping bags crammed with Gryffindor swords and shields and other Harry Potter paraphernalia for their little boys.
Walking in the rain through downtown Buenos Aires, I observed that Che Guevara and Harry Potter, two powerful transformative icons, had been given equal prominence in several bookstore window displays. Traveling the Pacific Rim, I marveled at two adolescent Asian girls, one in an airline lounge in Tokyo and the other at a Starbucks in Hong Kong, both were two-third of the way through “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire,” which had been released less than a week earlier.
I have promised you GS(3) and Words of Power will not only explore security, but also spirit and sustainability. Indeed, it is my premise that all three are interdependent and that you cannot truly address issues in any one of them without truly addressing related issues in the other two. Well, the great myths of the modern and post-modern world, i.e., Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars and Chronicles of Narnia, all center on the challenges of preserving or restoring security, sustainability and spirit. And I will be drawing on them from time to time as we explore these themes.
Last week, those in tune with the great cycle of the seasons acknowledged the solstice in one way or another. The solstice is a beautiful expression of the divine symmetry of polar opposites on a planetary scale. In Sydney, Jo-Burg and Santiago, it was the summer solstice; in Dublin, San Francisco and Ulan Bator, it was the winter solstice. In the southern hemisphere, the light was at is zenith. In the northern hemisphere, the light was at its nadir.
Either way, it was a turning of the wheel.
I journeyed to Yosemite to commune with the Great Sequoias of Mariposa Grove
They are hundreds of feet tall and thousands of years old. The branches that grow from their limbs are the size of most trees. Impervious to fire, insects, disease and severe weather, they are seemingly immortal. Their own shallow roots pose the greatest threat. They radiate an intense, primordial energy. Their presence unlocks the human imagination. The broken limbs and shattered rocks scattered around their bases morph into animal skeletons and surrealist sculpture. Blackened cavities scar their huge trunks. (Forest fires that decimate other trees merely singe them.) Gazing into the charred wood, I could glimpse ghostly shapes, swirling like cave paintings inside of black holes.
Four visitors, an older man with youths, came to the largest and oldest of these great trees. “Its an Ent,” one of the young men declared. The others asked: “What’s an Ent?”
But the youth just stood there awe-struck.
“Yes.” I called from the other side of the giant tree, “it’s definitely an Ent.”
“Thank you,” he responded.
His companions repeated, “What's an Ent?”
Finally, he responded: “It’s a tree shepherd.”
“What is a tree shepherd?”
“From Tolkien’s Lord of The Ring,” I interjected.
“Oh, OK,” they answered, and then fell silent.
“Now,” exclaimed the youth as he stretched out on the forest floor, “let’s hear what it has to tell us.”
Would that youth have recognized what he felt in the presence of the Giant Sequoias without first being exposed to Lord of the Rings? Well, he certainly could not have articulated it so clearly to himself or had it confirmed by a passing stranger. We are toiling at the mid-way point of a twenty-year span, (this last decade, and the decade to come) which may well determine future of both human civilization and the planetary environment that has tolerated it so far.
If we survive and flourish as a species, it will be due in some part to those people, both young and old, who have been inspired by the great myths of this era.
Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc.
You can reach Richard Power via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net.