Thursday, April 10, 2008

A myth is NOT a lie! It's a METAPHOR, a vessel, all too easily JACKED

Democracy Now! April 01, 2008
WTF?! Please don't tell me you're going to UNDERlook the vehicle by which Iraq is being jacked to Hell!

Amy Goodman and Nir RosenSister Amy and Nir Rosen have started their discussion. It sounds as if "myth" is just being used as a fancy synonym for "lie." A nation's mythology is their greatest, most capacious Vessel: if you want to jack them all to Hell all at once, trick them into a Vessel, unjustly move the numbers in a predicted direction, thus implying the Favor of the Gods when it's only deus ex machina; "that is easy," Goering said. That's what Cheney did the other day that sickened Patrick Cockburn.

We are being captured by our own greatest Vessel! A myth is NOT a lie.


Let me begin by explaining the history of my impulse to place metaphor at the center of our exploration of Western spirituality.

When the first volume of my Historical Atlas of World Mythology, The Way of the Animal Powers came out, the publishers sent me on a publicity tour. This is the worst kind of all possible tours because you move unwill­ingly to those disc jockeys and newspaper people, themselves unwilling to read the book they are supposed to talk to you about, in order to give it public visibility.

The first question I would be asked was always, "What is a myth?" That is a fine beginning for an intelligent conversation. In one city, how­ever, I walked into a broadcasting station for a live half-hour program where the interviewer was a young, smart-looking man who immediately warned me, "I'm tough, I put it right to you. I've studied law."

The red light went on and he began argumentatively, "The word 'myth,' means 'a lie.' Myth is a lie."

So I replied with my definition of myth. "No, myth is not a lie. A whole mythology is an organization of symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time."
It's a lie," he countered.
"It's a metaphor."
"Its a lie."

This went on for about twenty minutes. Around four or five minutes before the end of the program, I realized that this interviewer did not really know what a metaphor was. I decided to treat him as he was treating me.

"No," I said, "I tell you it's metaphorical. You give me an example of a metaphor."
He replied, "You give me an example."
I resisted, "No, I'm asking the question this time." I had not taught school for thirty years for nothing. "And I want you to give me an example of a metaphor."

The interviewer was utterly baffled and even went so far as to say, "Let's get in touch with some school teacher." Finally, with something like a minute and a half to go, he rose to the occasion and said, "I'll try. My friend John runs very fast. People say he runs like a deer. There's a metaphor."

As the last seconds of the interview ticked off, I replied, "That is not the metaphor. The metaphor is: John is a deer."
He shot back, "That's a lie."
No," I said, "That is a metaphor."

And the show ended. What does that incident suggest about our com­mon understanding of metaphor?

It made me reflect that half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think reli­gious metaphors are lies.

Campbell, J. (2001). Thou Art That: transforming religious metaphor. pp. 1-2. Novato, CA: New World Library.

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