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The Importance of Mythology in Our Modern World

A Dragon Rises
A Dragon Rises

We live in a world of high technology where food production, communications, transportation, medicine and other industries improve our lives.

Through science, we understand the basis of life with discoveries in DNA, the formation of stars, the causes of illnesses and ways to cure them, and much more. Mythology seems to have no place. We no longer look to spirits or curses as the cause of sickness.

Folk tales and remedies have been replaced by research and medical practice. Some feel this relegates mythology to those absurd stories our ignorant ancestors told to try and explain the world. Yet, those holding this attitude miss the true purpose and power of myth to humans.

Mythologies in all cultures say much more about human nature than any physical aspects. All the gods of myths are manifestations of human strengths and failings. As such, mythology is the original literature.
Literature is a much-misunderstood term. It is simply fiction that explores the human condition and gives readers the opportunity to examine themselves. It is an expression of the human spirit in a nonreligious sense, and doesn’t require dense prose with convoluted structures. Mythology is a vehicle that can do this.

Today, mythology can be found in magical realism, science fiction and fantasy works.The reason Star Wars touched a nerve and became an overnight sensation wasn’t because of spaceships or blasters. In truth, Star Wars isn’t really science fiction as much as it is space opera. A 19th century sailing ship could have been substituted for the Millennium Falcon with cutlasses for light sabers, muzzle loaded pistols for blasters, misfit sailors as comic relief for CP30 and R2D2 and a sorcerer pirate captain for Darth Vader.

The basic story would have held up along with the mythology of The Force and the theme of self discovery.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has battles and action, political intrigue and noble acts, yet the core of the story is the exploration of human nature caught between the forces of evil desire and heroic service. Professor Tolkien knew and understood the place of mythology from his studies and research into legendary stories such as Beowulf. He said he wanted to give England a modern myth because it had none.

When a story is set in a galaxy far, far away or a created world that never existed, authors can discuss serious questions such as greed, avarice, prejudice, oppression, altruism and equality in ways that might be ignored or rejected by some readers who oppose these themes.

Mythology, science fiction, fantasy and magical realism can tell stories with universal themes that comment on human nature. Through engaging characters, good and bad, set in immersive worlds, authors can explore who we are and how we can live together in society.

Of course, some stories are written as pure, entertaining romps where the action and adventure are more important than the characters inner struggles. These can be great fun to read and I enjoy them.
Mythology can open minds and change people’s lives. May the force be with you, always.


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