Pavlos (pavlos) wrote,

On Myth


I'm mostly living in my shell these days, but here's a long-overdue essay from my other blog. Paul and Alison in particular have been formative of it, since a long time ago.

We in the west tend to think that myth is a naive attempt to understand nature. That’s untrue and not sufficiently generous to those who came before us. Myth is not a failed theory of the universe; it’s a brilliantly successful technology for changing it.

What is the world? It is of course the stars, the Earth, the weather, life, and all the things that are out there. But we do not perceive these things directly, nor do they affect us. What affects us comes through our senses, and the way we perceive is as much a product of our embodied senses and our mind as it is a representation of the true disposition of things. Our perceptions are shaped by the ideas we already hold.

As soon as our ancestral apes became intelligent enough to affect the world, seeking to make it more hospitable to their vulnerable existence, two paths were open. They could make tools, draw predictions, and try to alter the physical world immediately around them, or they could alter their own minds so that their experience would be less harsh, more hopeful, more meaningful, fanciful and interesting, and even less bound to the actual sensations of cold and hunger that the body sometimes offered. The ability to alter the human experience of the world through the communication of ideas is myth.

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