I have to admit that I’ve been hearing for a long time about the importance of sacred myths, but honestly, it never did tickle my fancy. My explanation to that is that having been a left-brained person all my life, I always wanted accuracy, exact results, formulas.
I was born with an ability to do calculus, physics, computer programming, and the like. In addition, I grew up a fundamentalist Christian. What the latter did to me was create the illusion that there were perfect explanations for everything. The Bible was truth and inerrant. If something seemed untrue or illogical, an explanation was found, because the Bible was perfect.
Then, when for years I leaned toward atheism, I attacked the literal interpretation of the Bible. I still do. And because I’d been hurt so much by the said literal interpretation, I was adamantly against using the Bible any other way.
Yesterday, I was sitting at a metaphysics class, when I had a revelation of sorts. I realized that myths don’t have to be perfect to be helpful. Shakespeare’s plays are neither perfect nor literally true. But there is wisdom to be gained by reading his plays. If we were to examine all the myths and fiction ever created, we will find inconsistencies, errors, and even less than praiseworthy lessons.
The beauty of myths is that we can use them to help ourselves. Because we are not claiming that they’re divinely inspired, or literally true, or that if we don’t believe them we’ll go to hell, we can learn from the good and throw away the rest.
When it comes to the divine or the unexplained, we really don’t know. At least I don’t know. I have the feeling that there is something out there bigger than me–the universe. But I have no idea what it looks like, where it came from, or where it’s going. I have no concrete explanations.
I know, however, that I can feel something when I experience nature. I know that certain music stirs feelings in me. I know that miraculous healing does happen (much less often than some claim). I know that psychic phenomena is real (some accounts are anyway).
But more than anything, I know that I feel good when I get in touch with my inner self. I know that I love to be on my own feeling the reality of me, of the awesome human being I am. And myths help me get in touch with that mystic part of me that I love to experience.
So, sitting at that class yesterday– prompted by nothing the speaker said–I made a realization and a decision: myths like the Bible have glimpses of truth. The book is highly imperfect. It was written by people, and it represents ancient thought. But some parts of it point to that mysticism that being human is all about.
Am I going to read the Bible everyday from now on and make it “My Daily Bread?” Unlikely. There is way too much good material out there. I wouldn’t want to focus on one book and miss out on the rest. All I’m saying is that I will no longer wince and reach out for the closest exit when someone cites a Bible verse. Instead, I will learn whatever is worth and will go on with my life.