Personal Mythos

Judging a myth based of facts is like judging a painting by the sound it makes when you throw it down a flight of stairs.

A Myth:

Once upon a time a good man, Father Francis, died. Immediately he rose up toward heaven. St. Peter was waiting for him at the gates.
Peter nodded and smiled. “We’ve all been waiting for you child, we have a welcome feast prepared for you, oil for your head and feet everything you could possibly want . There’s just one thing, I can’t let you in until you tell me who you are,”
“I’m Father Francis,” the priest replied.
“Try again,” Peter smiled. “I already know your title, I need to know who you are.”
Francis tried giving his address, his degrees, his achievements, he even tried naming his sins one by one as best he could remember them. Each one was rejected with some variation of the phrase “I don’t need…whatever…, I need you to tell me who you are.”
Finally exhausted an more than a little frustrated Francis exclaimed, “Surely you know me, I was pastor of All Saints in Lubbock!”
“Of course I know you child,” Peter replied. “I even know who you are, but I can’t let you in here until you know who you are.”
“You’ve got to figure it out for yourself,” Peter continued. “But I know that you will, there’s plenty of time.”
Francis fell to his knees. “Our Father,” He began, but the rest was drowned out by the celebration.

As modern human beings we like to pretend we have nothing to do with mythology. In fact calling something a myth is a term of derision. We believe we are rational creatures if nothing else.

Wrong.

Any time we start a sentence with:

  • I’m a…
  • I’m not a…
  • I can’t…
  • I have to…

or even,

  • I remember…
  • what follows is almost certainly a personal myth. It’s either a current myth or one we are trying on for size.

    The good thing about these myths is that they tell us who we are, the tell us what has worked for us in the past. Moreover they provide context and continuity to our experience of life. There are at least a couple of bad things however. First these myths, like all myths are backward looking; they tell us about who we were and little to nothing about who we can be. Second they have limited connection to objective reality; just because we think something has worked for us does not mean it has been effective in getting us what we most want and need.

    A former teacher of mine once said: “Whether you like what you have or whether you don’t one thing you can count on is that it’s going to change.” Our personal mythology can either support us or make us miserable through that change. We need to be mindful when we tell ourselves who we are. For us, at least, the myths we create are Truth.

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