Are mythological tales just stories we devise to explain some aspect of life to ourselves.
In some sense, one cannot disagree with such a basic statement. Humankind has always woven stories to explain the unknown. Ancient civilisations had their mythological stores, we can think of the Ancient Greeks, Native Americans, Celtic, Norse, etc. Yet, do we still create mythology?
Firstly, we have to consider that mythology is a singular, particular type of story. To be mythological it has to explain something to us. Reveal profound human teaching. We are called to invest some importance into it. It has to be believed.
It is an irony that the truncated form of the word mythology; myth, has come to represent something that is false. An Urban Myth, and that the word mythomania describes the constant need to lie.
So do we still weave true mythologies? I think that has to be answered in the affirmative. A lot of what passes as scientific fact is, in truth, just a story we are told. Told often enough and it is believed. The Big Bang Theory is, as an example, nothing more or less than a mythology we are told, that we tell ourselves. A way to explain our beginnings that runs in a long tradition of creation stories. It is no less, or more, true or relevant than any other creation story. As an aside, scientists tell us it began from a point, a Singularity, so not big at all and as it was meant to have happened in the vacuum of infinite space, it would be silent..hardly, a big bang then, more Silent Tiny thing Theory.
A lot of history is just stories we tell ourselves to form a sense of national identity, a cohesion with what has formed us, but they are written by the victors. Archaeologists’ opinions are moulded by the thought and times they live in whose discoveries tell us more about their own time than that which they are excavating. History is oft revised by succeeding generations, to tell their own stories.
Ultimately, one could argue the rather depressing point that today’s mythologies are written by such programmes as The X Factor, Britain’s got Talent (a title exhibiting terrible grammar), et al. The idea of a person being swept from obscurity and the everyday, of overcoming hardship to, finally, have their talents recognised and rewarded is a story people buy into, aspire to. However, one has to be aware of the implications of this modern mythology. For every David Beckham there are ninety-nine window cleaners. Window cleaners who had every bit as much footballing talent as Becks but suffered an injury at an inopportune time, were twenty first in the list of the twenty lads who were offered a football apprenticeship/scolarship/trial. Just missed out and had to forget their dream and work nine-to-five.
Ulitmately, Mythology is a living teaching. What better way to live our lives than as our own personal mythology. To conquer our demons, befriend our dragons and learn to live with the elves, the dwarves, those that seem different from us. To embrace all aspects and alienate none.