The primary characteristic of a myth is that it is not true. It represents truth symbolically. A myth can require the reader to accept, however tentatively, the existence of beings with special powers. These beings may be granted some measure of divinity and the privileges that come with it.
Many people encourage us to be receptive to our own personal myth. Robert Bly is an example of this. So is Joseph Campbell. Thomas Moore and James Hillman encourage us to make a leap of imagination about ourselves.
Very, very few of us are willing to use our imagination in a way that is flattering to us. Imagination has been beaten out of us since the first time mom or dad swatted our hands as we reached for something that provoked our curiosity. We invented the MBA degree to filter out any remaining vestige of creativity and wonder that survives our family.
One of the reasons I enjoy working with women who gravitate to modeling is that they enjoy donning wings and colorful wigs. Some of them go the other direction and wear very little, or nothing at all.
Writing is hard work, and particularly so when it requires us to restore capabilities that have essentially been turned off. Christopher Vogler wrote about this in his book, The Writer’s Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers.
He outlines the steps that call a person out of ordinary experience. The first is receiving the Call to Adventure. This often results in the Refusal of the Call. It’s a “Who, me?” kind of response. Next comes advice from some sort of teacher. It might be a wizard, or John Wayne, or the Good Witch in the land of Oz.
If they prevail with us the next step is Crossing the Threshold into the realm of adventure. This will lead to tests. I love the tests in Casablanca, and Scent of a Woman. The hero soon comes across the Innermost Cave, and there he or she encounters The Ordeal. It might be an encounter with Darth Vader. It might be lack of money, or seeing our talent dismissed by others as irrelevant.
The Ordeal is followed by The Reward, The Road Back, Resurrection, and The Return with the Elixir. Dorothy’s elixir was her new knowledge that there is no place like home.
I delight in working with people who are exploring their own myth. I photographed stage performances on Saturday by people who are generally expected to apologize for something about themselves. Reasons include things like carrying enough body weight that they jiggle, being gender ambiguous, or wearing lots of tattoos. People were invited to be spanked on stage, and several accepted the invitation. Bare buttocks and all.
These people, it seems to me, are defining their own mythology. I can learn from them as I work on my own.
In my myth I’m the Wise Old Man who encourages people to hone their personal myth with courage and enthusiasm. I could use some help from a Wizard, so I will write one into the story.
If you care to share your adventure, please do.