Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Cultural Mythology

How does the function of mythology affect our culture?

by Ram Dass

I think when you encounter a moment of rapid transformation you’ll find a lot of dysfunctional mythology. There’s plenty of mythology in our culture. There’s no absence of myth. I mean, when I look at aging people there’s tremendous mythology about who you’re supposed to be when you’re old. However, I’m training people how to escape from the current mythology so they can create a new one. Basically, a more creative and more useful mythology to themselves and the society.

There are myths like the “American Dream” for example. It is now no longer a functional myth because it can’t be realized. I mean, most people’s children are living less well than they did, and that’s not the American Dream myth anymore. The idea that you can just use up the universe any way you want to, that more is better, and all of these kinds of parts of it… it just doesn’t pan out.

When a myth is no longer functional, yet people maintain a strong identification with it’s mythology, when the myth stops working it doesn’t feel good. Like in the middle class, a lot of the cocaine usage is because of the dysfunctionality of the mythology and trying to cope with that, because they worked very hard and they won by the game, but then it doesn’t feel good. None of it is actually functional.

So there’s all kinds of pathology that happens when people are holding on to a dysfunctional myth that’s not working. Before they are ready to entertain the idea of creating a new myth, what happens when they hold on is that they contract. They contract when it isn’t working out and they get more prejudices. They have to blame others.

When you look at divorce rates and serial monogamy in California and all these shifts in values, you’ve gotta recognize that a lot of the myths that we are – family values and things, just aren’t who we are anymore. It’s like when you’ve made an investment into all of that, believing it’s a certain thing, and then it’s not.

It causes contraction and then prejudices, then bigotry, and eventually violence.

And so what I’ve seen as part of our role is to respond to the transformative period when there’s dysfunctional mythology by examining it and ourselves. By cleaning the mind enough so that you’re not clinging to something that is no longer present – no longer relevant. I don’t think that at any moment there is less mythology than at any other moment, it’s just the question of how functional the myths are, rather than whether they’re there or not.

Our patriotism is really something that is just in this culture, which is a really very young America and our mythology is awfully thin for the moment.

I mean, it used to be Mom and apple pie and the American flag, and it’s not. It hasn’t evolved much further than that, on the whole, because of our reluctance to recognize the depth of our fellow human beings. Because of political landscapes and the social communications, we trivialize the issues – we soundbite them, we turn them into things we do not have to respect.

When I go into other cultures where they’re dialoguing, where they’re really reflecting each other and doing it together, I realize I don’t feel that here very much. I don’t feel it.

-Ram Dass