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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wednesday Writing Assignment
Inspiration strikes on Tuesday edition

Joseph Campbell’s writing has been my companion lately, and it gifted me with a strange and beautiful dream last night: a dream containing a myth. Campbell said that myths are shared dreams and dreams are personalized myths. He also wrote of the importance of mythology in culture, how it provides touchstones to interpret what happens in the individual life in terms of the mythic human experience. For example, we all undergo trials—an exam is something like facing a dragon; we all embark upon hero’s journeys—such as starting a bakery or entering a marriage; we all die and grapple with the question of death. (He adds that our culture is ill because it has no mythology.)

Your weighty but hopefully fun assignment is to write a myth, long or short. You can create a myth to interpret something in your life, something eternal (seasons, love, and so forth), or anything else you like.

7 Comments:

Blogger Ann said...

This was actually an assignment in one of my grad school classes. My myth was so bad that I'm too embarrassed to share it. (I got an A on it, only because I did a good job figuring out what she wanted to hear.)

I'll try to come up with a better one...

5:11 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

I wanted to speak with Death, to make sure that I was qualified to guide souls in the right direction when he called for them. Death whisked me up to his candlelit palace, where he told me that I was the woman he’d been waiting for. We began dancing across his shiny palace floor as he whispered the secrets to me. Death was very handsome, tall with dark hair and eyes, like an otherworldly, younger Antonio Banderas. He wore a tuxedo, of course. As we danced, he grew old and lost a tooth. When I told him his age was showing, he renewed himself to youth. Here are the secrets that Death told me.

His mother was Life. Before her, there was only Oneness, from which she emerged. I saw her dressed in rich greens, red hair flaming as she bore him, but his birth killed her. He wept, a little baby who had killed his mother, but she was Life, and so she restored herself. And just as Life could renew herself, so she passed that gift onto her handsome son, so that he could also renew himself.

Death was so debonair and such a wonderful, romantic dancer that I wanted to linger in his palace, but I had to return to earth, where his mother had more work for me. He promised to take care of me from afar, and said he would miss me until I returned for another dance later.

5:19 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Ann, I have no doubt that there's a luminous myth inside you.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

Okay, you're going to think I'm terribly lame, but I'm really not much of a believer in myth, on most levels. (Incidentally, I had the same insight as Campbell, in some ways, about 25 years ago, and I've come to believe that it's both right and wrong.) For example, when I remember my dreams--which is pretty rare--they're pretty straightforward. They usually feature some person or situation that is an obvious commentary on something in my life.

As I'm sure I've remarked here before, Joan Didion said that we tell ourselves stories in order to live, and I do believe that's true. But I also think that we don't all tell the same stories, or tell stories in the same ways--nor should we. I think the interstices where stories overlap are every bit as interesting as the places where stories conflict, and I think some commentaries on myths try to make all myths resolveable into one. I don't think they are.

But I liked your myth, kStyle!

6:28 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

I suspect the mythology thing either resonates or it doesn't for people. As we're dealing with myth, I'm loathe to intellectualize whether what Campbell writes is true or not. Because it resonates for me, I accept it.

In a related story. I once wrote an entire paper arguing against Campbell/Jung's ideas on myth, (in the context of Greek drama and an American art movement whose name escapes me), and I got an A. Like Ann, I wrote what the prof would want to hear.

8:03 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

PS Emma, not believing in the power of myth doesn't mean that you can't write a good one....

9:55 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

In a field one day, young Arem saw a woman so beautiful that it made him want to break his lease and get a better job uptown. That night he made sacrifices to the gods, in hopes of learning her last name so that he might Google her, find out her interests, and pretend to share them. Her first name was Cacophone.

One day he declared his love for her, and Cacophone replied that she had already been offered to another. "I am," she said, "engaged to the tree in my front yard. My father promised him to me years ago as part of a pagan ritual beyond my ken."

Determined to win her from the limbs of another, Arem challenged the tree to a battle for Cacophone's heart, or, failing that, her loins.

"Draw!" he commanded the tree, unsheathing his own sword. The tree did not move. "Coward!" shouted Arem as he slashed at the tree, knicking off some bark and rattling off a few leaves. But still the tree remained as it was.

Suddenly an enormous door opened up in the tree, and inside the door, a set of stairs. Puzzled, Arem started down the stairs, and then stopped when he realized it had one of those motorized chairs that ran down the handrail, like for handicapped people. He sat in the chair and rode to the bottom.

When he arrived, he met a very old man who introduced himself. "I," he said to Arem, "am the spirit of the tree."

"The spirit of the tree?" said Arem. "Then you are promised to my beloved Cacophone?"

"I am," said the old man. "But I am willing to bargain."

"But you are an ancient and wise spirit," said Arem. "What could I possibly have to trade to you?"

"Do you have frequent flier miles?" said the old man. "They are the new cash."

"I don't," said Arem. "But I just got the new iPod Nano. It is freakishly small."

"Awesome," said the old man. "Apple is the shit."

The barter was completed and Arem returned up the stairs to share with Cacophone the good news. The wedding was held on Arbor Day, and from that moment, man and nature existed in precarious but stable balance, each making sacrifices and each gaining certain compensations. Harmony has its price, but with rebate the price can be as low as $399, not including shipping.

2:09 PM  

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