“In the beginning” is how many myths start their story. And, simply put, a myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and man came to be in their present form. That myths are sacred means that all forms of religion incorporate myths of some kind. There is nothing disparaging about the term myth. The term mythos means word or story. It is only the modern usage of the word myth as “error” that has led to the notion of myth as something negative.
In common parlance, the term myth is often used as a mere synonym for error or fallacy. “That’s just a myth!” one may exclaim to label a statement or assertion as untrue. But untrue statements are not myths in the formal sense – nor are myths necessarily untrue statements. For myth may constitute the highest form of truth, albeit in metaphorical guise. If one keeps in mind that a myth must refer minimally to a narrative, then one can easily eliminate most of the books and articles employing myth in their titles.
Study of Myth
The study of myth is an international and an interdisciplinary venture. Scholars from around the world have contributed to the analysis of myth, and this includes scholars of anthropology, classics, comparative religion, folklore, psychology, and theology, among others areas of specialization.
Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth
Edited by Alan Dundes
We contain all the beautiful qualities and actions of our ancestors, and also the painful qualities. Knowing this, we can try our best to continue what is good and beautiful in our ancestors, and we will practice to transform the violence and pain passed down to us from so many generations. We know that we practice peace not for ourselves, but for the benefit of all our ancestors and all our descendants.
…..Thich Nhat Hanh
Your True Home: Everyday Wisdom
Thich Nhat Hanh
Beginning of Philosophy
Philosophy’s birth, between the 8th and 3rd centuries BCE, is described by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers as the Axial Age (in the sense of a “pivotal age”). It was a period of gradual transition from understanding the world in terms of myth to the more rational understanding of the world we have today. Rational understanding didn’t supplant early folk beliefs and myths so much as grow out of their values and tenets.
Early Philosophy Around the World
- The early Upanishads – the foundational texts of Indian philosophy, of unknown authorship – were written between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE.
- China’s first great philosopher, Confucius, was born in 551 BCE.
- In Greece the first notable pre-Socratic philosopher, Thales of Miletus, was born around 624 BCE.
- The Buddha’s traditional birth date places him in the 6th century BCE (although scholars now believe he probably wasn’t born until around 480 BCE, about the same time as Socrates).
Development of Distinct Cultures
These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of distinctive cultures across the world. Their values and tenants have shaped the different ways people worship, live and think about the big questions that concern us all.
How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy
Thoughts, Ideas & Feelings
The world we live in is not something that exists independently of our thoughts and ideas. Our world and our thoughts and ideas appear to us as a unified whole. Depending on what our thoughts and ideas are, our world may appear in completely different ways. These thoughts and feelings constitute our psychological condition.
When something breaks down inside us physically, our minds no longer remain clear. And, if our minds are not clear, then the eyes with which we see the world and our views of life become dark. Our lives and the whole world take on a gloomy appearance. When we feel healthy our minds brighten, and consequently our outlook on everything becomes brighter.
Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice
Role of Consumption
In the last few hundred years, the acquisition, flow and use of things – in short, consumption – has become a defining feature of our lives. In the rich world (and increasingly in the developing world) identities, politics, economies, and the environment are crucially shaped by what and how we consume.
Advanced economies live or die by their ability to stimulate and maintain high levels of spending – with the help of advertising, branding, and consumer credit. Taste, appearance, and lifestyle define who we are (or want to be) and how others see us.
Our Relation to Things
Possessions in a pre-modern village of an indigenous tribe pale when placed next to the growing mountain of things in advanced societies. This change in accumulation involved an historic shift in humans’ relations with things.
In contrast to the pre-modern village, where most goods were passed on as gifts or part of a wedding collection, things in modern societies are mainly bought in the marketplace, and, they pass through our lives more quickly.
Stuff & More Stuff
- A typical German owns 10,000 objects.
- In Los Angeles, a middle-class garage often no longer houses a car, but hundreds of boxes of stuff.
- In 2013, the United Kingdom was home to 6 billion items of clothing, roughly a hundred per adult – a quarter of these items never leave the wardrobe.
Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First