A likely story

We don’t need Freud and Jung to tell us that the myths we create and tell each other and ourselves are not fictions, but the building blocks of our individual selves and of the cultural worlds we inhabit.

A myth is not just a story, but an eikos mythos, a likely story, an approximation of a human or natural truth, a shot in the dark at something which moved in the shadows. The modern age doesn’t like myths, and it tends to dismiss them as delusions, fakeries and obstacles in the way of progress. Myths are seen as threats to scientific truth, goings astray from the path of certainty and precision. We may not feel this way, but the antimythological sense that modernity has bequeathed to us compells us to group myths together with fictions, opinions, non-facts. We feel we must put myths somewhere, and the truth-falsity boxes are already prepared.

But things are never easy. The modern approach to myths is itself a myth, a construction, a painted image which tries to approximate, to get closer to what things are, what we are, should or should not be.

‘There is no outside-text’, Jacques Derrida famously wrote, lifting the lid on Pandora’s Box of deconstruction. Similarly, there may be nothing outside myths, nothing but myths, myths explaining other myths, a myth challenging all the other, another one remarking that there are no myths at all…

The stories we live by, the myths we tell ourselves, the beautiful or repulsive canvases we fill around us all tell likely stories. As long as we remain the sons and daughters of cold certainty and cruel positivism, we’ll never come to appreciate the treasure of the myths we’ve weaved around us and which make us who we are.

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