Friday, January 1, 2010

Can We Create a New Mythology?

Over the holiday break my son was re-watching the Lord of the Rings movies. I popped in at one point when he was watching the commentaries, and the director was mentioning that for Tolkien the ring symbolized the Machine. I don't think it accurately does however. In the Lord of the Rings you have the classic myth of the hero's quest, and the ultimate battle of good over evil. Even though the ring has the power to corrupt those who possess it, you still have a very clean dividing line between good and evil.

In the real world however, there is no clean dividing line between good and evil. There isn't an Us vs. the Machine. We are the Machine. The myth of the hero's quest doesn't apply to us any more. How can we go up against the Machine and seek to destroy it when we are totally enmeshed with it? To destroy it is to destroy ourselves. That's why I think so much of the activism of today has been futile. Real activism, in the form of the hero's quest, would lead to destruction of ourselves along with destruction of the Machine.

The Machine was cleverly built out of our own bodies and souls. Pick a part of the Machine you don't like and try to bring it down. What are the consequences? Suffering for you and me and all of our neighbors and friends and family members. That's because we are totally enmeshed in the Machine. Not happy with Wall Street? Bring down Wall Street and you may not have a job, or food may not be on the shelves at the store, or your dollars may be worthless to buy anything. Don't like oil and our dependence on carbon? Cut off our supplies of carbon fuels and transportation grinds to a halt, farming stops, people start chopping down every tree in sight to heat their homes, trade ceases and we all suffer. How about bringing down the pharmaceutical companies and the health care industry? Don't you know that sickness is big business? It's a truly sad state of affairs when the business of sickness is one of the healthiest parts of the economy. Knock out big pharma and all the companies that profit from sickness and the whole economy gets thrown off kilter, perhaps catastrophically. A hero's quest to bring down the Machine brings it down on our heads. It's not a myth that applies to us anymore. It can't be employed successfully.

But is there a new myth to replace it? The sad truth is we've been without a defining myth for quite some time. There is no deeper layer guiding our actions anymore. We have become automatons, mere cogs in the machine. We are deceived by the illusion of individual autonomy, thinking the million little decisions we make each day make us free. Those decisions are almost all in service to the Machine. We are decision-making cogs, decision-making consumers. But we're not free, and most decidedly not separate from the Machine.

A new myth would require true freedom. We have to become human again, thinking and acting with autonomy. A new myth would also bring back true connection. We've lost our ability to connect with anything beyond our immediate concerns. We need to connect with nature, with the larger rhythms of time, with the cycles of creation, with the cosmos, with other living beings.

A first step in evolving a new mythology has to be disengaging from the Machine. We can't bring it down. We can't toss it into Mount Doom. But we can begin to free ourselves. If we detach from the machine we can reclaim our autonomy, bit by bit. And eventually we won't be muddle-headed robots any more, but deeply aware free beings, full of dreams and visions, inspiration, artistry, love, creativity, hope, sincerity. As authentic beings we will be able to evolve a new myth. We can't do that enslaved as we are.


  1. I was delighted with such greatb reading! Keep doing this great work!

  2. Your essay really made me think. Wonderful writing!