The word myth has lost its meaning to us as a psychological or spiritual term. No, the situation is more drastic than that. Myth has become the opposite of fact, something that is generally accepted but untrue; “it is a myth that reading by flashlight ruins your eyesight.” The popular television show on the Discovery Channel, MythBusters,uses this definition, attempting to disprove “myths” with something vaguely resembling science. But they are all around us.
Semantic drift of this sort is generally the result of shifting cultural focus. In many cases this is incidental, but in others it can speak volumes about the priorities of a culture that we build our personal beliefs upon. When we think of myth as untruth, we are buying into a worldview, a myth of the absence of myth, as Bataille said. This myth states that mythology served a central role in the lives of humans up until a time when science and industry somehow stole away or otherwise replaced our myths. This belief itself serves as a myth which allows us to establish a place within history for ourselves. It is an internal narrative that defines us in Enlightenment terms.
“We are our narratives” has become a popular slogan. “We” refers to our selves, in the full-blooded person-constituting sense. “Narratives” refers to the stories we tell about our selves and our exploits in settings as trivial as cocktail parties and as serious as intimate discussions with loved ones. We express some in speech. Others we tell silently to ourselves, in that constant little inner voice. The full collection of one's internal and external narratives generates the self we are intimately acquainted with. Our narrative selves continually unfold. (New Scientist)
The myth underlies our motive, or at least, it gives it voice. It may be encoded in any medium, but its defining characteristic is its psychological function. When looking at stories, movies, or any other form of media, we may then, once again, ask: what qualifies as a myth?
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