Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Few Thoughts, After Leaving my Brain in Neutral

I've been reflecting silently (no small feat - I love to talk), cultivating my mind and meditating in an effort to further the growth of my interior life.

Sounds rather grand, doesn't it? I wrote about that sort of thing Saturday. ("Working on Sunday: At Growing the Christian Interior Life" (January 2, 2010))

Anyway, I managed to stay 'on task' for a while. The only measurable bit of progress was finishing more of a sort of workbook I'm using to debug my mind: the six-syllable phrase is 'cognitive therapy.' Which is leading me into another topic.

Sometime around mid-afternoon, I let my brain go into 'neutral,' and remembered something I was going to look up, for a story that's been on the back burner for years. (Yet another topic.)

I found an interesting, if ill-constructed, page on Japanese mythology, made a few notes, and posted them in another blog. ("Well, That's Interesting: Japanese Mythology," Drifting at the Edge of Time and Space (January 3, 2010))

A Myth-taken Meaning of "Myth"

Quite a few people use the word "myth" when they mean "something that's not true." Okay - that's how some people use the word. The 'dictionary' meaning of "myth" is: "a traditional story accepted as history; serves to explain the world view of a people" (Princeton's WordNet)

I think the idea that "myths" aren't "true" comes from the profound lack of appreciation for poetry and metaphor in contemporary western thought. Yet again another topic. Getting back on track -

Japanese Creation Myth, a Fire God, the Netherworld, and Persephone

One of the Japanese creation myths was about Izanagi and Izanami. Izanami died after giving birth to the fire god Kagutsuchi. I was struck by similarities to a myth involving Persephone. You remember Persephone? Greek Goddess? Embodiment of fertility? Queen of the Underworld? That Persephone.

Shouldn't I Start Ranting Now?

I certainly do not think that 'it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere about it.' (Remember Linus and the Great Pumpkin, in Peanuts?)

On the other hand, I think that there's something to be learned by studying the myths people have developed around the world.

One of the fairly obvious points seems to be that people aren't all that different around the world: although details vary. Mythologists and folklorists have written books about the common themes and characters which show up in various cultures.

Like the trickster. Depending on where you take your stories, he's Loki, or Coyote, or Brer Rabbit, or the tengu, or Bugs Bunny.
Smiting the Unbeliever, the Demonic Mr. Ed, and Talking Sense
Taking a line through the likes of Tony Alamo or Steven Anderson, I could take the myth of Izanagi and Izanami as the starting point of a rant against the evils of the unbeliever; the terrible dangers of that demon-horse, Mr. Ed1; and how something I don't like is the work of the devil.

Not gonna happen.

It's not that I'm above such things: but if I go off the rails, it'll be in another direction. And, God willing, I won't. Go off the rails, that is.

Where was I? Right. Trying to talk sense. Write, actually.

Izanami, Persephone, Osiris, and All That

Quite a few people have lived in parts of the world with distinct growing seasons. Often, their ancestors have lived there long enough to have very old stories about why seasons happen. These days, that's a fairly widely-accepted explanation for things like the myth of Persephone, Izanami (maybe), and Osiris.

Osiris is that green god of Ancient Egypt who got cut up and re-assembled. Quite a story.

Someone in an online community I'm interested in, brought up an Osiris-Jesus connection.

True enough: Jesus died and rose from the dead. But, "just like Osiris?" I think not. The resurrection of my lord is something that happened not quite 2,000 years back - and isn't a symbol of green growing things coming back each year.
"Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1019 - I recommend reading the whole section, 988-1019)
The Persephone thing, though? It's hard to not start seeing similarities in stories people tell about the cycles of nature. Where I draw the line is trying to compare fairly straightforward nature myths with something that - isn't.

And, getting back to what I was starting out with in this post, I think there's something to be learned by studying the culture and beliefs of people. What strikes me is not so much how we're all alike, as how we're going roughly the same way.

As groovy as the the idea of unity through conformity is, I don't buy it. Reminds me of the sixties: throngs of people; all about the same age; all wearing jeans; all with long hair; all saying "I am an individual!"

The story of Izanagi and Izanami is not 'just like' the story of Persephone. There are similarities, sure: but each story has a style, a tone, all its own. The Aegean is not Japan is not Kenya is not Scandinavia.

What I find interesting is that people in widely separated parts of the world wove tales to explain the world - which seem to point in pretty much the same direction.

Which is about as far as I've gotten with that thought.
1 Decades back, a preacher got his 15 minutes of fame by declaring that Mr. Ed was possessed.

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