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Myth Appropriation

Value other people's mythologies.

Do not merely “tolerate” them: positively value them. The way I figure it, all peoples' and all cultures' various myths serve as keen insights into that great unknown. That undiscovered country that in order to try and understand, we are forced to fill in the blanks with our imaginations and apply our own interpretations of what “God” (or the lack thereof) might actually signify.

Why should we value other people's perceptions—? Their gods or religions, even in the face that we may not necessarily buy into them wholeheartedly—? Take a popular myth around the world, “Christianity”, for instance. I positively value that myth, and the teachings of its alleged savior, “Jesus Christ”, who was crucified to a cross—a common form of execution back in the day delegated to anyone from thieves, murderers, to petty criminals. Christ was a petty criminal in the eyes of the Roman Empire, which Pilate served. Right before Christ's impending crucifixion, he told Pontius Pilate “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate's reply—“What is truth?”—underneath whatever guise one today wishes to cloak it with (whether sneering contempt, cynical jesting, dead seriousness, or the innocence of a child) nonetheless provides the perfect antithetical reply, and the fact that Pilate did not await Jesus' answer may be a topic of discussion for the next two thousand years, but that does not change the observation that there really was nothing to add, and besides, Pilate already perfectly well knew what Jesus' answer would be (as we all must perfectly well know). This extremely brief exchange must've been Jesus' last communique—(before lifting his eyes skyward and beseeching his Father of course)—with mortal men on this earth before being hung up to die one of the most torturous executions devised by human beings.

What does this exchange reveal about Jesus, about Pilate, and about we who are left to ponder it—? It is a compelling dialogue that has served to keep me endeared to both men in an uncompromising situation. Think of it what you will.

Can a person who claims “I AM THE WAY” be misunderstood or misinterpreted? What if that person only meant to show that his advice was the way to the truth—and afterwards for countless generations more and more people misconstrued the genuine simplicity of that statement as literally meaning HE was the way—? Is it possible these generations of well meaning people may have got it wrong—? Misunderstood the original message preached by Jesus—? (Of course its possible.) Does it matter—? (Of course it matters.) Would it matter to these countless successive generations of misled people whether or not they got their own lord and savior's original message wrong—? I would think so—but maybe they should be asked. What would Jesus think if he were alive today, about the various sects of his followers, and what they believe—? Who knows—? Does anyone care—? Does anyone care if anyone else cares—? Who knows . . .what Jesus would think . . .except for Christ himself.

I'd like to compile parallels in myths, such as the fact that various disparate culture's mythologies all reference common events, such as the Flood. I wonder how many disparate people's myths I will find references to the crucifixion of their personal saviour—? The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

The most popular expression of religious faith during the era which saw the rise of Christianity was not the official state religion of “Olympian” gods, but the salvation cults known as the “mystery religions.” Each of these had its savior god or goddess, such as Mithras, Dionysos, Attis, Isis, Osiris. Most of these cults possessed myths in which the savior deity had overcome death in some way (not necessarily raised from it), or performed some act whose effects guaranteed for the initiates good fortune in this world and a happy existence in the next. Their rituals included communal sacred meals, often involving such things as bread and wine and bearing strong resemblance to Christian sacramentalism (Paul’s Lord’s Supper myth may well have been influenced by Mithraic counterparts), and the mystical relationships between initiate and deity are very similar to those expounded by Paul in his branch of Christian belief. While Christianity and the pagan cults interacted on one another as time went on, both can be regarded as more or less independent branches of the same broad, ancient-world tree.

On towards “The Spirit Of The Question.”

A fascinating concept that I learned about during my stints in 1982 and 1983 working on creative problem solving in what was then called “Olympics Of The Mind” (now legally changed to “Odyssey Of The Mind”) was referred to as “the spirit of the problem.” It was the simple issue of addressing the fact that each problem or question facing us will have at its core its true intent. When someone asks you a question—and quite often, as it turns out, that someone may make a mis-step in phrasing or botch up some other technicality—it is almost a prerequisite that in order to deliver a proper answer, one must use their perception in order to “get around” the “technicalities” or mis-phrasings possibly inherent to the questioner's imperfect use of wording. One who suddenly realizes what the questioner intends to ask, would be exercising cordiality and good grace in waving away the mis-phrased “technicalities” and instead opt to strike at the heart of the intended meaning of the question.

This is known as reacting to “the spirit of the question.” Obviously, our legal system is one good example which is built specifically around attempts at avoiding the “spirit of the question” if technicalities are utilized to allow a guilty party to go free; look no further than the O.J. Simpson case for a likely example of this. Of course nobody really knows with 100% certainty whether or not he was guilty of the double homicide—but by using Simpson as an example of the misappropriation of “the spirit of the question”, we can acknowledge that if he was indeed guilty of the murders, then his lawyer was able to get him away scot-free on a technicality—i.e, the spirit of the question (i.e, the problem) was not addressed. On the other hand, if Simpson were in fact innocent then his lawyer indeed may have addressed the spirit of the question correctly, and established his client's innocence from that. Of course we are simply not privy to the real facts, we can only surmise and make our best guess as to what actually happened.

I have never forgotten about my lesson learned during the Olympics Of The Mind creative competition, over thirty years ago. And I have always striven to apply the proper use of “the spirit of the question” in all my daily endeavors.

In so doing, I also try to remember to apply “the spirit of the question” to my quest in search of knowledge and truth. Forget momentarily about “absolute truth”—for that, I feel, would be getting ahead of ourselves. This quest is best embarked upon one step at a time. (Hence bothering to ask about “absolute truth” or “Who created the creator?” is simply far too many steps ahead of us to make it worthwhile asking; after all, we would not want to unnecessarily project ourselves into oblivion, now would we?) As we make our first steps towards our quest for “truth”, we can only be certain of things within our reach. This keyboard I type on, it is made of plastic, perhaps the truth is “plastic.” My umbrella plant I left out on the porch yesterday while the temperature dropped uncomfortably low—I got home and immediately brought it indoors and wrapped a fluffy comforter about its base—and gently warmed up it's various stalks with my heated hands. Poor thing—some of it's beautiful leaves were slightly wrinkled from the temperature drop. I hope my warmth and blanket I wrapped around it was enough to restore it back to normal health. That is truth—that umbrella plant I named “Mary Poppins.” The food I buy from the organic market—that is truth, at least relative to my existence—I can see it, I can feel it, I can smell it—I can taste it, I can eat it: that food is real, it is true: meaning not an illusion; it is really there: it is something I can believe in.

I am not saying the things I cannot see, taste, feel, hear, or touch are not necessarily true. I believe in God. That is, I believe in Something we can not possibly understand. The only way I can believe in that is through Faith. So I have Faith. Faith in something that remains, essentially—Unknown. That does not make it untrue. It just makes it—inaccessible to me other than via Faith.


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