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Reply To: The Ripening Outcast, with Mythologist Norland Tellez


Greetings Norland!

Thank you for quite the thought provoking Mythblast! It is, indeed, difficult to grasp what myths are driving us today. I’m reminded of, “We are fish arguing over the existence of water.” But your use of the Hindu caste system is inspired, I daresay. We can only look at our own societal structure by analogy to see how deafening, but ultimately shallow, ‘that’s just the way things are” can be, especially given the nexus moment we seem to be in.

Looking back over the past 70 years we can see how moments of significant societal unrest shifted the narrative toward some degree of progress, but never, seems to me, as much as you’d think the effort and energy should have inspired. That societal narrative, with its mythic elements, is a heavy stone to push along. (Allusions to Sisyphus aside! Though it can certainly feel like that.)

There’s an effort-progress equation in there somewhere.

But there is value in shining a light on the siren song of “that’s the way things are,” and how the economic, ethnic and overall societal narratives are, after all is said and done, outworn artifices with which we deceive ourselves. It’s revealed very clearly by the common reflex response here in the West to criticisms of capitalism or just the mention of Marx.  I’m reminded of my favorite quote from Campbell’s Creative Mythology:

For even in the sphere of Waking Consciousness, the fixed and the set fast, there is nothing now that endures. The known myths cannot endure. The known God cannot endure. Whereas formerly, for generations, life so held to established norms that the lifetime of a deity could be reckoned in millenniums, today all norms are in flux, so that the individual is thrown, willy-nilly, back upon himself, into the inward sphere of his own becoming, his forest adventurous without way or path, to come through his own integrity in experience to his own intelligible Castle of the Grail—integrity and courage, in experience, in love, in loyalty, and in act. And to this end the guiding myths can no longer be of any ethnic norms. No sooner learned, these are outdated, out of place, washed away. There are today no horizons, no mythogenetic zones. Or rather, the mythogenetic zone is the individual heart. Individualism and spontaneous pluralism—the free association of men and women of like spirit, under protection of a secular, rational state with no pretensions to divinity—are in the modern world the only honest possibilities…

In lieu of a cultural norm with THAT as it’s center of gravity, we will always be playing catch up, (Oh damn. There’s Sisyphus again. lol), striving against past norms turned into anchors with stagnation waiting for exhaustion to set in.

Never before have I valued the certainty of death as much as I do now. Not from misanthropic despair, which does hide around the corner these days, but from the hope that arrives with each succeeding generation. During my 32 years as a secondary school teacher, I’ve watched, first, the Millennials and then the Zoomers  begin to tell themselves a story different than that of their Boomer and Xer parents, and you see this story being told on the streets right now. It’s all very encouraging. There is a shift occurring in this evolving narrative.

I imagine that the pull of the caste system remains in India to some degree. But I don’t think it drives that society as it once did, although they are dealing with their own reactionary impulses as we are here in the States. But positive change is happening, even if we can’t define what’s too close to us to see.

Warm regards,