(1/16/06 2:35 am)
Myth & Meaning|
Myth & Meaning
We are an animal who asks questions. We are an animal who makes up stories to answer our questions. These stories give meaning to our lives. Our myths give meaning to our experiences. Sometimes we must wait long before meaning emerges --- or before we can make it; I don't know which. When we are able to find/put meaning in/into a series of experiences, we make a new myth.
The myth not only solidifies the new meaning. It does more: It structures the meanings we find in later experiences. It also restructures our memories.
An idiot knows only one language. What am I if I know only one mythos?
Language shapes meaning. Language and meaning structure reality.
So, is reality proper to the beholder? Is reality socially constructed? If a person belongs to more than one culture, then what are we to say? That multiple mythoi are true, or that no mythos is true?
Is there one and only one meaning to a life? To a sequence of events experienced my multiple persons?
URI = http://peoppenheimer.org/
(1/16/06 7:43 am)
Re: Myth & Meaning|
Oo, can't resist this sort of thing!
What I'm inclined to think:
What we mean by "reality" might be represented by a large, fairly solid circle of the socially agreed/constructed, gradually greying out through views shaped through more particular experiences, to the translucence of the realities of those living with delusion, hallucination and psychological disorder.
A well recognised part of this is that no individual is able to directly experience the totality of the real. To understand the shape of a table, I might need to view it from different angles and conceptualise/derive its shape by performing a synthesis from a series of data.
It's a little like spotlights in the dark. You're in a pitch black room with an elephant. You've never seen an elephant before and want to understand this thing you can hear moving about and breathing. You click one switch and a line of light illuminates a toenail. Another illuminates the tip of a tusk etc. The more spotlights you throw in different directions, the more data you have to synthesise until some cut-off at which a synthesis has been achieved which is consistent with any evidence that could be provided by further spots.
Or trying to understand a tesseract (four dimensional cube). We can't directly experience a tesseract because we can't see four dimensional objects. We can't even conceive of them in the same way as 3-d objects. But we can still conceive of them in some sense. It's possible to build 3-d models (or 2-d pictures of 3-d models) which represent the various cross-sections of a tesseract - how such an object might intersect with 3-d space. From these, we can build up a pretty good concept of what a tesseract is (how we might experience one). Obviously, the more cross-sections you draw, the more useful they become... until again you reach some cut-off.
When it comes to our shared, social reality, it's a lot more complicated than a tesseract. It might be the equivalent of an infinite-dimensional object, given there's no practical limit to the number of planes we interact with each other and with the world.
Story telling is a way of providing cross-sections of such an object. It defines a sort of logical plane or space onto which the world of people, emotion and human interaction can be mapped.
Again, it's gets even more complicated when you compare the story traditions of different cultures. In this case a means of understanding reality is taken as part of the reality to be studied. (And if story telling can be examined by ethnologists, comparative psychologists etc. so ethnology, psychology etc. can be examined by story tellers.)
So it's all cross-sections, synthesis, tesseracts and elephants... Well, that's my take...
(1/16/06 9:37 am)
Re: Myth & Meaning|
It's like the blind men and the elephant. Each person sees the world according to their experiences, but it's too big for one person to swallow whole.
(1/16/06 3:50 pm)
Re: Myth & Meaning|
Thank you very much for your careful and thoughtful reply. I'll
ponder it and get back to you. On a more personal note, I am a logician,
mathematician, computer scientist, and professional analytic philosopher.
(See Paul E.
and The Metaphysics
if you are curious about just what I'm working on these days.) For all my life, I have been trying to reconcile that aspect of myself that is rational --- indeed, severely logical (and having very low tolerance for nonsense of any sort) --- with that aspect of myself that is mythic, intuitive, poetic, and mystical. The Endicott Studio has brought me to a new understanding of the roles that myth can play in the shaping of our lives, and especially in addressing (though scarcely in answering!) questions about meaning: the meaning(s) of the life of a human
person; meanings of suffering, beauty, existence, goodness, truth, and so on. If memory serves, the standard encyclopaedia of philosophy in my graduate student days, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
edited by Paul Edwards, had an entry under "Meaning of Life, The" that classified questions about the meaning(s) of life as pseudo-questions.
(It has been a very long time since I have re-read that article; if I am doing the venerable encyclopaedia an injustice here, I apologise to all of us who have known and loved it.)
By reading the works (poems, painting, sculptures, films, books, essays, anthologies, etc.) of the members and friends of the Endicott Studio,
I have been brought gradually to realize that logic, mathematics, the special sciences, and philosophy as I have learned, practiced, and taught it since 1969, cannot answer, or indeed even begin to address, many of the questions that are most important to me. My post to the "Fairy Tales and Folklore Discussion," to which you so kindly responded, was meant as the beginning of a tribute to the new wealth that the Endicotters, and others like them, have brought into my life.
Paul E. Oppenheimer