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The Purpose of Mythology
“One of Mythology’s purposes is to provide wisdom and guidance for our lives inclusive of our inevitable crises and triumphs. Thus myths can prompt important self exploration and serve as compasses for our own human adventures, heroic or subtle”.
In most cases, myths are a representation of reality and are intended to guide humanity on dealing with various life challenges. Among the significant benefits of mythology is that they provide humanity with wisdom. There are myths with background on philosophy, art, literature, law, science and other disciplines. Luc Ferry (2014) in his book, “The Wisdom of Myths” contents that, myths are a great source of wisdom to humankind. Furthermore, they remain to be relevant today as ever before. He goes on to articulate that myths such as "Achilles heel," the “Pandora's box”, "Herculean task, “and so on are not considered as mere clichés or legends. These and many other stories provide manifold, profound and lessons on such aspects as quarries regarding mortality, the good life, finding a place in the world, and many other insights (215). The story about wisdom teeth removal, also do provide some insights on aspect relating to the emotional feeling of people with defective teeth. The “spoiled child” is another myth, which offers humanity with assumptions concerning children, how they are, and how they ought to be raised by their parents or caregivers. Essentially, the myth congeals a conventional wisdom in the society on child rearing.
When myths inform on the attitudes and activities of deities, the moral tone in them represents the expectation of the society for individual standards and behaviors. In myths, people are able to see archetypal situations as well as various options that may be chosen in such situations. Moreover, people are also able to perceive the rewards, and other effects, which emanate from such selections. Specifically, children get to pattern themselves after legendary or mythical heroes, cartoons, comic books and so on. Television cartoons depict different archetypal characters such as Wonder Woman, the Superman and so on. Adults can also find role models in stories about persistence, the strength of deities and courage. The archetypes provided by myths also offer guidance to humanities generation. The hero's quest is one example that is used to guide people on various life aspects. This myth is also reflected in other myths such as the Beowulf, the Twelve Labors of Hercules, and the Odyssey. Children have used this myth as a model that, they imitate while in the process of growing up and accepting adult obligations (Detienne, 2006, 115).
Individuals or people represented in myths are looked upon as something that gives inspirations and embellish the common man. Another example of how mythology can be used to guide the common man can be derived from Walter Payton, who was a popular football hero. His integrity and work ethic have been raised into a myth status for individuals of all careers. Many cultures use myths to guide their actions, what pleases or displeases the gods, separating evil from good, what leads to fortune or misfortune. The common theme in these myths such as trust, love, glory of rebellion against unfair authority and the concept of reward for right actions, plus the retribution of evil forms the basis of the myth’s moral development (Detienne, 2006, 114).
People need stories, stories about smaller or bigger things than they are, stories about others as well as those about themselves. The myths about characters could help individuals to attain their goals and live a good life. However, they can also keep individuals locked in self-defeating fears. Further, myth stories are also considered as the seeds of faith for the future of humanity. One popular myth that I have found relevant in this perspective is that of Job. Job is a biblical hero who is said to have undergone many tribulations. Such a story can make people reflect on their own problems and that they might be a temptation from God to test their faith on him. Mythology can also give them powerful and dramatic stories of radical individuals. Stories such as the Plato's, the Euripide's Medea , The Apology of Socrates, Sophocles' Antigone, and the rebel woman, depict prototypes that challenge the powers of the state to an extent of causing agony and death on the concerned individuals. These extraordinary and tragic characters become models on humanity and archetypes who define the dynamic meaning of love and death between the state and individuals. These heroes in the best of time help people explore themselves on matters related to human excellence and civility. In essence, some myths can help individuals identify themselves and, or what they are expected to be. Despite the different names, rewards or lands represented in such myths, they all talk about the similar journey of valuing and knowing oneself (Larsen, 1996, 312).
Myths are still important for humanity even in today’s perspective since they provide insights on dealing with life in an unconscious level. Their efficiency in this perspective is further shown in traditional myths, which are still relevant today. There are also emerging new myths on a constant basis, relaying their significance in the society.
Detienne, Marcel. The Creation of Mythology. Trans. Margaret Cook. Chicago: U Chicago P, 2006
Luc Ferry. “The Wisdom of Myths, HarperCollins Publishers, 2014 ISBN-13: 9780062215451,Larsen, Stephene. “The Mythic Imagination: The Quest for Meaning Through Personal Mythology”, Inner Traditions Publishers 1996