A friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail that contained the following question:
I have been thinking a lot about this statement you made on your blog over the summer:
And, while I’m happy to be a book-thumping mythologist and an arm-chair psychologist, it’s time to get some new scholarship published that isn’t just reciting or repackaging the same old theories that have been tossed around for 100 years now. In other words, stop theorizing and start doing. I’m still working on my plan of action for this step.
Have you figured out a plan of action yet?
Since this is a very appropriate question, especially as I slough ever closer a conclusion (to my dissertation, that is), I took a moment to jot down and answer. And here it is:
I’m not sure I have a specific answer, especially since somehow suggesting an answer seems to me to be a major act of hubris. But, as I read the Tweets about the Occupy movement, I’m more convinced that something needs to happen. The Occupy movement is great in that the youth are finally doing, but it falls short in that they don’t have a unified front of what they are protesting, which is what I’m afraid is going to happen when all the mythologists start doing something. "Saving the world" is an awfully big challenge.
It seems to me that the best course of action is for each mythologist to identify a particular aspect of "the world" s/he wants to see fixed and utilize the tools available for them to move in a direction of healing. For example, I’ve become fascinated with the idea of the Cold War instigating a paradigm shift in American myth and how our response to it constructed the environment we’re currently living in, one based on Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality. So then, my question is whether we can break down the simulacra and restore groundedness in some sense of reality without totally shattering America’s idealistic, Romantic, utopian views. My current tool, since I’m not formally published in many places, is to blog my thoughts, but to also construct lectures in my classes that invite students to think about these very questions and consider plans of action. Granted, only a few students actually walk away with any semblance of a plan, but I hold to the ideal that if I can sink into a couple of them, then they will spread the word and so on. I’m not expecting a quick fix, which is definitely not what we need–though I do think we need a mythic Band-aid in the interim as we realign our thinking, and that’s what really great myths these days are providing, such as Harry Potter or LOTR or Star Wars or whatever. They make us think about good and evil, love and hate, and model for us how to handle those emotions.
I once saw a Pacifica dissertation defense for a project constructed around using myths to help children of soldiers cope with their parent’s injuries (physical and mental). This student constructed a puppet stage play with the container of children asking an old wounded vet about why Daddy acts weird or why he had to lose a leg, and the old vet would respond with an older myth that answered the question, but the myth was used in the context of getting the children to connect their own situation with the myth and figure out for themselves the solution they were asking for. This particular model works great for younger kids, but I wonder how well it would work for older kids and adults. My concern with this latter example is that it pulls myths out of time and place (which is the point, according to the laws of archetypes), and I find that mythologists who use this practice ignore/overlook America’s own mythology altogether. I know this is a matter of opinion (and possibly national pride?), but overlooking American myth (not the same as Native American) reinforces the hyperreality by constructing a false relationship to myth that ignore the fundamental aspects of American culture.
I’m not really sure yet what overlooking American myth means yet. In the majority of my readings, the idea of American myth is something relatively recent, so maybe this is also something that will turn around.
Mythologists who toe the line between technology and myth are in a unique position. I think there is a lot of promise for a fusion between the two, but I haven’t yet figured out what that end goal should be. Pacifica recently launched the Study of Myth, which is supposed to be a discussion forum for all things myth, with a preference for the same conversation within the already established (ruts) discussions happening at Pacifica, the Opus Archives and the JCF. But discussion forums only go so far. Somehow, I almost wonder if an "Occupy Myth" movement is the next way to go. Except, rather than occupy a park, we occupy liminal space and democratically vote on our list of demands from the Cosmos and develop ways to take myth out of the discussion/educational forum and make it practical to everyday life. And to move away from the "Hero’s Journey" formula, because that formula cannot apply to everyone’s personal experience.
This is as far as I’ve thought. What are your thoughts, Dear Reader?