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This is Previous-Essay <== This-Essay ==> Following-Essay Click HERE on this line to find essays via Your-Key-Words. {Most frequent wordstarts of each essay will be put here.} ========================================================== %COMMUNAL MYTH CONTEXT INTERPRET MEAN EXPERIENCE 880606 The myths which are alive in a community provide contexts within which members of the community interpret their experiences; i.e., by assigning significance and meaning to their experiences in their personal relationships. Interpretations of personal experiences are not objective realities, or even truths about objective realities. Powerful interpretations are communal realities created through communal affirmations of individual interpretations of personal experiences. Creative individuals offer images in terms of which they assign meaning to their experiences; then to the extent that other people find themselves empowered by those images to interpret their own experiences---the images grow in mythic power to provide an integrative communal context. Myths do not provide a means for analyzing experiences into their most elementary parts. Rather, myths offer contexts within which communal significance and meaning can be assigned to personal and communal experiences so as to promote both personal and communal integrity. The assignment of meaning comes through human choices as people discover the powers of mythic images to provide contexts for meaningful interpretations of relationships as they are experienced. Human relationships entail essential mysteries; i.e., mysteries which cannot be eliminated through greater knowledge. The more intimate and profound that human relationships are, the more knowledge is shared; however, that knowledge does not eliminate the mystery of any real I-Thou relationship. Analysis of the mystery does not explain or eliminate the mystery; does not provide the means for control of the mystery. Rather, myths provide the contexts within which participants in mysterious relationships assign meaning to their relationships, thereby integrating their mysterious relationships into a coherent whole. The power of myths depends upon the integrity with which people can assign meaning to their experiences within the contexts provided by the myths. Myths lose their power if people discover that myths themselves lack integrity, coherence within the full context of human lives. Myths cannot provide integrative contexts for assigning meaning if the images of the myths do not themselves hang together, do not have integrity. The scientific revolution has in many ways undermined the integrity of ancient myths. In the light of objective discoveries about how physical objects behave with great reliability, it is not possible to respect mythic images which entail physical processes that are totally inconsistent with highly regular patterns of natural processes. The "laws of nature" do not tell nature how to behave. The "laws of nature" are human descriptions of how reliably nature does behave. Ancient myths are impotent to modern people because they offer images which are inconsistent with our modern descriptions of the reliability of nature in terms of "natural physical laws". Modern scientific man does not find life meaningful because modern scientific man has not accepted the need for mythic images to provide contexts for the interpretation of scientific success stories. What is the human meaning of the successes of making atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs, intercontinental missiles, doomsday bombs, cruise missiles, etc? In the absence of a mythic context we cannot assign meaning to such successes. Success is not meaningful without a mythic context. In their effort to eliminate mystery through the acquisition of knowledge, scientists have succeeded in eliminating respect for myths in terms of which their successes might be assigned meaning. There is no way to assign human meaning to the successful elimination of our respect for myths. How are we to assign human meaning to the successful completion of an arms race? What would be the meaning of winning such a race? How can "winning" an arms race be defined? Scientists cannot provide all that we need. The problem of modern thoughtful people is that they are trapped inside the myth of objectivity created by scientists, to celebrate their way of approaching mysterious situations. The myth of objectivity has helped scientists to reduce the mystery in the world of their experiences; it has not helped people to assign meaning to their experiences. Within the context of the myth of objectivity the universe appears to be purely objective in nature, and people are seen as accidental consequences of objective relationships among impersonal elementary constituents of the universe. It is hard to assign powerful meaning to accidental consequences, especially when the mythology makes no room for powerful mysteries. When everything is analyzable, understandable, predictable and controllable; it is hard to see ones' self or one's personal relationships as meaningful within a larger context which merits respect as a coherent whole with essential integrity. For modern scientists to make meaningful contributions to the integration of the peoples of the world, modern scientists will have to become more humble regarding what they can and cannot do. Scientists will need to be trained to acknowledge the limitations of their way of approaching difficult situations. Graduate programs will need to train future college and university professors to see the scientific revolution within the context of the universe of mythic interpretations of the full range of human experiences. (c) 2005 by Paul A. Smith in (On Being Yourself, Whole and Healthy) ==========================================================