It's a word that has plagued me the past four years. --Why is Mythic Imagination relevant? "Is the work we're doing relevant? "Why is 'myth' itself relevant"?
Relentlessly, these and similar questions about the "relevance" of MII and the work we do still follow me. They confront me when I try to raise the funds our projects desperately need, or explain the extraordinary power myth has always exerted on our collective consciousness, or simply try to encourage friends - perhaps you! -- to attend Mythic Journeys.
In response, far too often I hear "Why does it matter?.... Why should I care about myth?.... How is myth going to help me pay my bills, raise my children, lose weight, get ahead at work, make more money, have more fun, etc. etc etc"
But for the most part, I've grown accustomed to doubt. Resistance, skepticism, even hostility no longer surprise me. After all, not many decades ago we entered an era in which our ability to master the simplest of human fluencies - empathy, imagination, inspiration and the handful of other capacities that have endowed our species with its unique ability to seek and learn from myth - began evolving into an extraordinarily complex undertaking.
This change - this increasingly complex definition of what it means to be a conscious human being - is less of a paradox than may seem to be the case. For proof, one need only look at the preoccupations that now compete - vigorously! - with the qualities on which myth's recognition and use depend.
A marketing guru friend of mine recently put this in perspective for me. Pointing solely to highly "developed" nations such as our own, he urged me to examine how fully and unreservedly our hearts, minds and wallets are given over to the narrow collection of pursuits that have become contemporary society's primary sources of personal and collective gratification.
Sex (both real and imagined), entertainment in virtually any and every imaginable form, ever more narrowly defined (and defended) "communities," and constantly externalized financial attainment are only a few of the pursuits that dominate far more of our waking hours than are usually acknowledged.
While there's little new there - what age hasn't found itself thus smitten? -- what is new is how much of what's absent.
It's a matter of our inner life, versus our outer life. What seems to be increasingly less evident today are those inner values, beliefs, principles and commitments - forces that seem to have once competed more successfully with the outer concerns that today dominate the competition for "consumer share of mind."
It's the disturbingly one-sided nature of that competition that makes me not terribly surprised when I encounter question after question regarding the relevance of myth.
The truth is, skeptical questions about the "relevance" of myth may be inevitable if by encouraging people to become involved with myth and the Mythic Imagination Institute we're inherently asking them to act outside of the natural proclivities to which they're increasingly drawn.
Perhaps the solution is to loosely align ourselves with some or all of these sources of gratification. We do provide a sense of community for many people; our programs are certainly entertaining; and MII even provides a good forum for sex: I know of at least two babies that were born as a result of Mythic Journeys 2004! Okay, maybe the sex one is a stretch, but in similar ways, they all are. We do not land conveniently into any of the categories, and we are back to the question of relevance.
How do we make myth, and MII, relevant? I am always an optimist, and on this subject I am no different. There are actually several factors that are working in our favor, especially here in North America. There are many prominent business writers who are talking about North America's shift from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. Books like Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, or Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind are just a couple. These books tell us that there are several trends occurring in the world that are transforming our economy and our culture. There are many ways to articulate these trends, but in short, through advances in technology, many logically ordered business processes are being automated. Computers are doing jobs that were once done by humans. These functions include accounting, law, and customer support. Additionally, many more jobs are being outsourced to Asia: call centers, computer programming, accounting, and radiology just to name a few. These functions can be easily measured, do not require close proximity to the customer, can be done at any hour of the day, and can be done by someone overseas with equal quality for about 20 to 25% of the cost of doing it here. We can scream about it all we want, but there is no stopping these trends. Already, more Americans today work in arts, entertainment and design than work as lawyers, accountants and auditors. This is the emerging economy.
The good news is that the jobs that will be left will, by and large, be jobs that require a close relationship with the customer or a skill set that is not easily measured or logically ordered. For example jobs such as designers, artists, inventers, social workers, nurses, entrepreneurs, and entertainers. These types of professions require conceptual thinking. They require the understanding of metaphor, story, empathy, creativity, and imagination. Neurologically, they require skills that are found on the right side of the brain. Our educational system is heavily biased towards the logical, sequential, and literal left side of the brain; standardized test, memorization, and "No Child Left Behind" are all the result of the old economy.
A deeper understanding of myth and story, however, can provide us with a framework for unlocking the parts of the brain and the skill sets required to be successful in the emerging economy. As we move into this new Conceptual Age, these skills will become increasingly critical. Perhaps finally, our work will align itself with people's sense of well being.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).