Throughout the month of May we have been considering the spiritual theme of Story. Stories are essential to our identity as meaning-makers. Stories, poetry (a kind of storytelling) and the images they invoke ground us in a reality. We live the stories of our lives as a script with a beginning, middle and an end, even if certain parts of that story are painful. Ask anyone what they think about a certain situation, and while we might rationalize and analyze what is happening around us, ultimately it’s a story that brings the point home. Philosophers almost always illustrate a point by using “armchair experiment:” an imaginative story that invites you in to the idea.
In our post-modern age we often measure the efficacy of a truth by how well that truth relates to our sense of reality. The use of reason and experience are central to our Unitarian Universalist traditions as well. This use of reason, first postulated by Plato and his student, Aristotle, is known as Logos, or knowledge from reason. Logos is at the heart of the scientific and intellectual tradition in the West. It is central to how to decide what is real and what is not.
And yet, Mythos, or myth-telling is, I believe, an equally valid way to make meaning. Myths are often viewed as not true from the viewpoint of reason. However, a myth is a way of telling the truth through the vehicle of a story. When the ancient Greeks acted out the myths of Gods and Humans on the stage, they were participating in a truth-telling beyond the reality most lived. Tragedies and comedies are a reminder of the deeper meanings we live by: that despite all that befalls us – disease, lost relationships, death and heartbreak – we are here to love and to serve. Tears and laughter are two sides of the essential impulse to live, to remind ourselves to live out our days with as much vivre and compassion as possible.
Logos and Mythos are two sides to the same coin: each calling us into the world with the whole of our being. I, for one, believe that we can embrace both. I close with this reminder from Mary Oliver:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things. – Wild Geese
Yours Always, Rev. John