what myth are you living?

Here’s the audio version of today’s blog post:

“This is what fools people: a man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his own life as if he is telling a story.”

Jean-Paul Satre, Nausea

Carl Young said that the most important question we can ask ourselves is “What myth are you living?” That seems like an odd question to ask, considering most of us probably think of myths as make-believe or associate myths with Greek and Roman mythology. We consider ourselves too enlightened for myths. Instead, we put our faith in the scientific method and reason to answer our questions about life. And we trust that technology will give us the power to change or destroy what we don’t like.

But how do you answer the question of ‘what is the meaning of my life?’


As Joseph Campbell said:

“The psychological dangers through which earlier generations were guided by symbols and spiritual exercises of their mythological and religious inheritance, we today…must face alone…This is our problem as modern, “enlightened” individuals, for whom all gods and devils have been rationalised out of existence.

What are myths?

Myths are:

“An intricate set of interlocking stories, rituals, rites, and customs that inform and give the pivotal sense of meaning and direction to a person, family, community, or culture.”

If you view myths in this light, then myths are all around us. We just chose simply not to recognise them as such.

To examine the myths operating in your life, ask yourself why you do the things you do in the way that you do them. This might be a hard question to answer because, when you are living the myth, it is nearly invisible to you. Our myths become “truths,” reinforced by cultural consensus.

Here’s and example:

“Most Americans would consider potlatch feasts, in which Northwest Indian tribes systematically destroy their wealth, to be irrational and mythic but would consider the habit of browsing in malls and buying expensive things we don’t need (conspicuous consumption) to be a perfectly reasonable way to spend a Saturday afternoon.”

Sam Keen, Your Mythic Journey

What we hold as “truths” is somebody else’s myth.

So, back to Carl Jung’s question, “What myth(s) are you living?” Is it a narrative you’ve created or are you simply buying into the prevailing cultural consensus? Do you have any personal myths you would rewrite to make them more empowering?

Last thing I’ll say about myths for now and then I’ll leave you to rummage through your personal myths (“truths”).

Think of myth as:

The software, the cultural DNA, the unconscious information, the meta program that governs the way you see “reality” and the way you behave.

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