A few days ago, I was reflecting on Joseph Campbell’s remark made in the 1980’s:
‘We can’t have a mythology for a long, long time to come. Things are changing too fast to become mythologised.’*
He couldn’t have foreseen how change would be happening faster and faster – think of what’s happened in the world of politics, the biosphere, and technology since 1986.
My mind went to the five elemental truths Richer Rohr introduced me to some seven or so years ago – these gathered from the rites of passage of ancient societies: life is hard, you’re not as special as you think, your life is not about you, you are not in control, and, you are going to die.** From a slower time than ours, people were exploring their inner and outer worlds through what we might call myths or grand narratives.
A life without myth and narrative is more likely to be a life without surprises – all answers and no questions. Myths have made it possible to make great journeys, to encounter new ideas, people, and places – to see more, feel more, and do more.^ This is a journey – myths are about what happens on the way.
“Squint, squint, squint. … It’s all a question of learning to see.”^^
‘We must ask, “What happens because of what happens next?”‘*^
My friend Helen has pointed me in the direction of Friedensreich Hundertwasser‘s thinking about five skins: epidermis, clothes, house, social environment, and planetary. (I think I’ll be exploring one of these each day this week.)
This has a feeling of reaching for a personal and societal mythology to live within. According to Campbell, myth has four functions: mystical (we are people of wonder), cosmological (science filled with the mystical), sociological (supporting social order), and pedagogical (how to live a human lifetime).
Hundertwasser’s first skin, the epidermis, is about overcoming automatism and the informal in order to see more, including our creative possibility.^* All of which makes me think about Theory U being a journey from daily downloading of the same old same old and mindfulness‘s journey from living on autopilot. Specifically, it’s being comfortable in and exploring our own skin – our way of seeing the world and producing our art.
‘I love what I see. Life excites me.’⁺
(*From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s Adam’s Return. I see each of these truths as needing our personal completion: e.g., life is hard but when we find each other it becomes easier.)
(^As I wrote this sentence down, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel slipped into my mind as an enjoyable way to reflect on this: all the retirees coming to terms with a different place to live, except for penelope Wilton’s character Jean Ainslie who closes herself to every part of the experience.)
(^^Artist Paul Ingbretson, quoted in Alan Lightman’s Dance for Two. Ingretson was quoting what he had learned from his teacher Ives Gammell.)
(*^From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)
(^*Unfortunately, hundertwasser.com won’t allow for images or text to be used without permission – which feels shortsighted.)
(⁺From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)