“The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.” ~ Carl Jung.
My first introduction to the panoply of Greek gods and goddesses was in first form (sixth grade) in my Jamaican high school. We were decked out in our shiny new uniforms, proud of our new textbooks and school bags, very impressed at our achievement. ‘Legends and Myths of Greece and Rome’ was the title of the small green book, and as a story lover since birth, I was fascinated by the tales. They were of course quite fantastic, everyone knew there was only one God really, one amazing story of a virgin being impregnated by a God and giving birth to the son of God.
Fast forward a decade later, and I was learning from my revolutionary pan-African husband that the origin of such story was actually Africa, and that Egypt had many tales of virgins being impregnated by gods giving birth to demi-gods! Not so unique after all! That same husband almost got thrown out of a college class when he dared to instruct the professor of a Humanities class that Greece and Rome were definitely not the birth place of Western Civilization, that Africa had universities and libraries long before them!
But the truth (as well described by Joseph Campbell) is that since the origin of man, mankind has been trying to find explanations for our conception, and from Australia to Alaska, groups of people have their creation stories. Most of us raised in the Judeo-Christian belief system have heard of the story of Adam and Eve. But depending on the part of the world your ancestors came from, you may have been told of the Great Turtle that emerged to form the earth. In some parts of Africa they believe that man came from outer space to inhabit the earth. In fact, there are many books dedicated to the outer space theory, especially when you study the amazing design of pyramids, built before computers and heavy machinery.
It is not surprising that, before science and exploration had uncovered many of the explanations for the existence of the universe, mankind came up with their own theories, their own accounts for the appearance of humans on the earth. They studied nature, the rising and setting of the sun; the cycles of the seasons; the appearance of eclipses and shooting stars; and incorporated all of these into a cohesive story that made sense to them. Repeated over time, from parents to children, over campfires and on special occasions, it became fact; incontrovertible, never to be questioned.
As to why one particular creation story has been deemed to be any more ‘correct’ than another has to do with politics and power; oppression and supremacy. Since history books are mostly written by the victors, the accounts can be tailored to the wishes of those holding on to the power. Sadly, we can never know for certain when we are reading fact and when it is fiction.
The legends and myths were very entertaining. Many cultures have their own ‘warrior quest’ stories. These are accounts of (usually) young men having to set off on some big adventure, leaving behind family and support system. Our hero travels through treacherous terrain, sails over raging seas, risks death numerous times and battles hideous monsters. There will be females in the story, usually wise old crones who give him advice, or shelter him and heal his wounds so that he lives to fight another day. Eventually he will overcome all, he may meet a beautiful maiden, and then he will have to decide whether to stay in this strange but beautiful land, or to return home to a hero’s welcome. There is a nurse theorist who has used the story of the warrior quest to assist those who face severe health challenges. They also have to battle monsters and turbulent seas, and are often healed by nurses (some may be insulted by the term ‘wise old crones’!). They may even have a near death experience (NDE) and have to decide whether to stay in the beautiful land, or return to family and friends to a hero’s welcome. When you see your struggle as an epic, heroic quest, you can stand tall as a Cancer Warrior, rather than a survivor.
Stories are meant to be entertaining, insightful, metaphorical. They are meant to enlighten and to help you to see something from a different perspective. Unfortunately, sometimes the stories we have heard from childhood are not helpful and uplifting. They may be demeaning and demoralizing and damaging to our sense of self-worth, to our self-esteem. From something as simple as having been told we couldn’t do math, to the ugliness of emotional and physical abuse, our stories may take on a life of their own and be hard to shake.
For children who were adopted, it may be difficult for the adoptive parents to know when to let them know their true origin story. And for someone who is not informed early, it may shake the foundation of their sense of self. Imagine finding out at sixteen or twenty that the people you have called Mom and Dad are not your birth parents. You begin to scan all of the stories you have ever been told, and question their veracity.
These days the truth seems to take a back seat to a well told story. Through the amplification of social media and the invasion of unfriendly ‘bots’, we can no longer take information at face value. Those of us who still value the truth must be more discerning. We have to seek out multiple sources to evaluate for ourselves whether pictures have been doctored, or numbers exaggerated. While stories, lies, and misinformation abound, people are being terrorized. The most vulnerable among us are living in fear of the very real monsters that are empowered by inhumane policies and treacherous acts.
It is time for us to come together and share our positive stories, to remind each other that regardless of where you come from, or what stories your ancestors shared around the campfire, we all belong to one human race. We need to challenge lies when we hear them, stand up for those who are unable to speak for themselves. We need to shine a light on the ugly, so that the beautiful can once more flourish and take hold. These are perilous times, and it is up to all of us to turn it around.
May you find a way to change the narrative in your own life and find meaning in the everyday acts that enlighten our days. Have a wonderful weekend, Family!