My thoughts in this moment are on the impacts of what professionals refer to as “socialization” where communities or cultures strongly influence the general attitudes in place.
I was nurtured and grew to adulthood within the historical Mormon sphere of influence in the Great Basin of the Rocky Mountains. Mormonism is its own unique religious culture – both social and geographic.
Whether we admit it or not, every definition of life we possess is an assumption. Every reasoning behind what we choose to do and how we choose to behave is based on assumption.
Our assumptions are the authors of our own story, that personal mythology from which we navigate our lives.
Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox years ago addressed this subject with excellence and I have paraphrased their writing to discuss what in essence are the different herd mentalities that inform who we are, perhaps who we used to be, and who we might become.
Our assumptions are usually based on that informal and formal set of teachings from which we authorized our answers to the following questions:
Where did I come from?
Why is there evil in the world?
What happens to me when I die?
With whom do I belong?
How close should I be to others?
What are my obligations?
What is taboo and to be avoided?
Whom should I imitate?
Who are the heroes, villains, enemies and allies?
What are the stages along life’s way?
What is disease?
How can I be healed?
What should we do with bounty and surplus?
What is our relationship with nature and the animals?
Why do we do the things we do with the feelings that we feel as we make decisions? In so doing are we vitalized by our confidence and sense of self-reliance or do we look for cultural environmental validation that in effect bleeds away some of that confident emotional energy?
Does then what we do leave us feeling validated or merely accepted?
Our lives are living myths of our own creation. Our companion is our personal story, all the stuff inside.
What kind of “stuff?”
Well, within our self-awareness and thought process, there is the “stuff” we were taught and the resulting “stuff” based on our personal interpretations and assumptions about our lives, our community and our relationships.
This “stuff” inside is what we utilize to tell us who we are and then serves as the construction material for building the presentation framework we offer to the world regarding our own existence.
“Myth” is a word mostly misunderstood and utilized in that simple presumptive knee-jerk stance that facilitates the elevation of someone’s “stuff” above other peoples’ “stuff.”
Defenders of religious creeds use the word “myth” to characterize religious beliefs that conflict with their own, saying
“Your, assumptions are not as valid as my assumptions. In fact, your assumptions are myth while my assumptions are truth.”
But regardless of all that we think we “know” and the truth of which we offer “testimony”, what do we deny if we refuse to recognize those of our own assumptions from which we define testimony?
How much are our individual lives shaped by inner scenarios based on assumptions we have been taught to accept as absolutely true?
Do we live an inner myth that reflects how we’ve been taught that the world is as defined by our personal societal culture rather than how we’ve discovered the world to actually be?
Our personal mythical scenario is always on and is always running. Sam Keen has described myth as referring to
an intricate set of interlocking stories, rituals, rites and customs that inform and give the pivotal sense of meaning and direction to a person, family, community or culture.
The myths we carry around inside include unspoken consensus, the habitual way of seeing things, unquestioned assumptions, and our ‘automatic stance’.
A society lives on its own unconscious conspiracy to consider a myth the truth, the way things really are.
Are we living in a culture where the majority who are literal without thinking; men and women who are not critical or reflective about the guiding “truths” – myths – of their own group?
As Keen implies,
” To a tourist in a strange land, an anthropologist studying a tribe, or a psychologist observing a patient, the myth is obvious. But to the person who lives within the mythic horizon, it is nearly invisible.”
I recommend a serious and reflective reading or viewing of Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth. (We are currently watching the Netflix DVD and the film is actually an easier way for us than reading the book in our own library.)
I also recommend you find a copy of YOUR MYTHIC JOURNEY, Finding Meaning in Your Life Through Writing and Story Telling, by Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox., copyright 1973, 1989 Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc
I also like this quote from Carl Jung:
“I asked myself, ‘What is the myth you are living?’, and found that I did not know. So … I took it upon myself to get to know ‘my’ myth, and I regarded this as the task of tasks … I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me.” -C.G. Jung, The Portable Jung
In a herd, members usually instinctively choose behavior that corresponds to that of the majority of other members. They do this through imitation, mimicry, citations or quotes from revered mortal authorities whose opinions are considered the same as revelation from God.
Herd behavior as a social study can describe how individuals in a group can act together without planned direction. There need not be strict control from upper echelon or hierarchy. Individual cultural members tend to be the strictest enforcers of cultural norms and group-think.
Herd behavior includes spontaneous moments such as riots, demonstrations and protests on the one hand, and outbursts of praise, singing and weeping on the other. Weeping in Church can very well the consequence of having one’s inner sense of identity being stampeded by cultural stories and myths that offer a momentary and powerful sense of confirmation or validation of those inner assumptions.
people often do and believe things merely because many other people do and believe the same things. The effect is often called herd instinct. People tend to follow the crowd without examining the merits of a particular thing.
As more people come to believe in something, others also “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of the underlying evidence. The tendency to follow the actions or beliefs of others can occur because individuals directly prefer to conform, or because individuals derive information from others.
A diverse culture will by definition have a diverse set of values, assumption and yes, mythological stories ranging from origin to culmination.
It is only when we assume that we individually or as members of a specific culture have the one true point of view and morality that we in fact weaken the whole of our larger corporate human society.