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Reply To: The Air We Breathe


Hello to All,

Forgive me if I am a bit late in contributing to this important conversation-I am just finding out over the past days that many colleagues at the college where I teach are being let go because of this pandemic and what it has meant financially for the college. I live in western New York during the fall and spring semesters and in my native homeland of Germany when I am not teaching. There are vast differences in perspectives when it comes to understanding the divine gift of breath.

For the most part, German people have been willing to wear masks for not just their own protection, but for the other people that inhabit their cities and neighborhoods. In an earlier post, I outlined the origin of the German word for breath and its relationship to the gods-indeed it is a divine gift. It is significant that the word is connected to the divine in this way.

Its symbolic significance is something we all notice -in poetry-Zephyr -the west wind, in Christian tradition-the Holy Spirit, in the ancient creation myths, and yet it is taken for granted as we see in the response to the pandemic here in the US. The outrage voiced in having to wear one-the violence directed towards those who do and the agonizing death that comes when we can no longer breath.  I am deeply saddened by this kind of behaviour and wonder if this is a glimpse at something that has made us more ill-more than the virus-narcissism. We like the mythical character are reflecting a kind of deep illness that turns us inward and we feed upon our own selfishness-it is a formula for death. Is it something deep within us-the brain’s driving force to destruction? Sisyphus comes to mind as well. Why are we continuingly moving toward those things that do not  affirm life?  We are tempting the gods here with the life-destroying behviour we are engaged in-certainly so many young people are doing this.

Reading the myths I still think can help us to understand our limitations and that we cannot triumph against the forces of nature. As I write, I am digging deeply for those myths that are life affirming, ones that can teach us how to recognize again the face[s] of our universal shared humaness/humanity. As I also wrote in an earlier post-it is simply not enough to as Campbell states, “participate in the world”, “say “yes to the world just as it is”-we need urgently to write anew a myth that can speak us-to save us young and old.

Thank you all for this forum-for all your words of wisdom. In a sea of despair it is obvious there is hope in the combination of ideas, words, good will from all in this group.