Cultures Reveal Themselves in Their Myths

Have you ever noticed that stuff you write, songs you sing, dances you like to perform somehow someway reveal to the rest of the world who you are? If this thought has ever crossed your mind, you are hardly alone because anything that we do on the outside, ultimately, is a reflection of who we are on the inside. If you weigh a certain amount, or if you’re overweight, it’s because you are overweight inside. If you look very unprofessional or an out-and-out bum, that’s because you think a particular way.

You’d be surprised as to how these internal realities that we hang onto, and we often confuse as being completely sealed off from the rest of the world actually translate to the things that we say, think and do.

You have to remember that in the big scheme of things, the world doesn’t care about your intentions. It couldn’t care less about your feelings, but the moment you start taking action because you’re feeling a certain way, or you believe in specific things, the world will sit up and pay attention because the world is objective. All it cares about is the results you produce.

If you can wrap your mind around this analysis, then you would see that cultures always reveal themselves in their myths. When you look at these mythological stories, you can see the priorities and the values of the particular society telling that myth. Furthermore, you can tell their aspirations. Who do they want to be? What kind of unpleasant realities are they seeking to escape by telling these myths over and over again?

Myths also highlight uncomfortable facts that cultures would like to paper over, gloss over, or otherwise process in a form of denial or self-delusion. No culture really is immune from this. All cultures do this at some level or other. Take the case of America. American cultural history is full of people that are neither fully saints nor fully sinners. This uncomfortable amalgam of morality that deftly evades and quick and lazy black and white moral filtering is understandably annoying to a lot of people.

Human beings, after all, are always looking for the path of least resistance-especially when it comes to historical moral analysis. So how do historians sidestep this inconvenient truth? That’s right-they resort to mythology. To hear some historians, it appears America’s founding fathers were so wise and so far-sighted that you’d be forgiven to think they are supernatural beings. Sadly, this kind of mythology is championed all the time and persists to this day-thanks to the public education system.

In other words, myths not only act as mirrors to a culture’s strengths and weaknesses, they also act as delusions. Put simply, they record delusional ideas and hypocritical patterns of their cultures. When you look at the record of their actual historical actions, and you study the things that they say about themselves and their cultures, don’t be surprised if you see a disconnect. Hypocrisy is not a modern invention. This is what’s so fascinating about cultural exposition using cultural products like mythologies.