An essay by Michael Meade

We face overwhelming problems that affect the entire global community; yet we are becoming increasingly alienated and at odds with each other. It’s not simply that the country is divided; not just that people feel themselves on opposite sides of increasing problems; but also that the center has gone missing. We now live in a gap of culture with opposing sides that appear to be entrenching ever more deeply.

 

More and more people live in fear of being marginalized, whether on the basis of race or gender, economics or religious belief. Under the spell of demographics and the statistical world view people tend to pick one set of facts and reject others as being unreasonable or even insane.

 

Opposition and conflict can be productive, but only if there is a sense of underlying unity. Where there is no cohering center everything starts to make less and less sense.

 

It is not just that statistics and facts can be manipulated and used to serve either side of a contested issue. But also that people can create “fake news” and spread outright lies that appear in the form of facts and statistics. The problem is that we cannot solve the troubles of this world with the same kind of thinking used to create them. In politics and elections, just as in most important issues in life, the facts hardly ever tell the whole story.

 

The troubles we face are so extensive and intractable as to be mythic in scope. Yet, we tend to dismiss myth as being too irrational or unreal. We live under the rule of facts and statistics, in a time when logic rules and myth is thought to be something false and misleading.

 

The ancient Greeks, amongst others, had two ways of thinking and seeing the world. They called them logos and mythos with each word making some sense of what happens in the world. Logos seeks to find objective truths, the kind of definitive explanations that can be proven with observable facts, statistics and controlled experiments. Mythos, on the other hand, approaches the world through more imaginative and intuitive means. One seeks knowledge in the realm of matter, the other seeks an understanding of what matters most to us.

 

Logos cannot decipher much when it comes to issues of human pain and fear or the need to find some unifying meaning that can bring people together in times of danger and trouble. The term mytho-logical suggests that myth has its own logic and its own power. If the power of logos is reason, the power of myth is imagination and it is usually imagination that is missing when the facts don’t add up. Myth can make the most sense when everything else seems to make less and less sense.

 

From a mythic viewpoint, the present moment, so burdened with conflicts and oppositions, can be a crossroads in time that opens to surprising solutions that defy logic and rationality. Myth has some way of lighting on the truth that reason has not and humans have always turned to stories in order to bear the darkness of the world and the immensity of its forces and problems.

 

When the troubles get deep enough, when the problems become greater than us, when the weight of the world is on our shoulders, it is usually a different story that is needed to make things whole again. When logos comes to the end of its line of reasoning, people used to instinctively turn to mythos to pick up the thread and continue the story.

 

The ancient Irish had a mythic notion about times when the center cannot hold, when the world falls apart, leaving everyone and everything caught in various states of conflict and despair. Of course, that is the condition of the modern world where most now believe there can be no center and that we all live in an endangered planet as well as a random universe.

 

The old story advises that when the problems of life become huge and overwhelming, when the tasks seem impossible and the conflicts become intractable, when the whole thing seems hopeless and people feel helpless, then the time has come to seek for the missing center again. According to the myths, the wholeness of life cannot be destroyed; but it can become hard to find.

 

If what is lost could be located in obvious or familiar places, it would already be found. The surprise is that when the center no longer holds, it can only be found where most people are reluctant to go; it must be sought in the margins of life, in the shadows of despair and at the edges of the unknown.

 

If those willing to enter the darkest places and face the unknown would gather whatever threads of meaning and imagination they might find and begin to follow where they lead, new paths to unity would be revealed and old oppressions could be relieved.

 

It’s a simple enough story, as much a parable as a myth; yet there is a truth within it that ancient people did not wish us ever to forget. We may each feel tiny, frail and insignificant in the face of overwhelming problems; yet we are each secretly woven to the center of the whole thing. The center can be found again in moments of wholeness that occur in the depths of the human heart and soul where genius resides and wisdom can be found.

 

The thread to the center is the hidden cord of the heart, it is the thread of genius that can connect the mind with the heart, the thread that allows the mind to feel and reveals the hidden thought set within the heart. It is both subtle and determined; it can be elusive; yet it is also indelible in us.

 

The most common form of despair is not to know who we are at our core and what we have to give. Meanwhile, threads of genius and purpose are present in everyone, but may only become visible when something creative is attempted.

 

When enough people awaken to their natural sense of purpose, the fabric of life can be rewoven again and the center can be found. This cannot be proven by simple analysis or grasped by reason alone. Yet, we know it intuitively when we feel like we are hanging by a thread and wishing and praying that something or someone might pull us all to a better place.

 

Although it cannot be factually proven, genius is a fact of life and a defining aspect of each person’s true identity. As an archetypal presence in the soul, human genius marks each person, regardless of age, gender orientation, ethnicity, or social status, as being essentially unique and inherently valuable. This sense that each of us has inner gifts and something significant to contribute to the world has practical benefits at both the individual and cultural levels.

 

No one has to heroically save everyone or pretend to do so. There is no single idea or system that has to be believed or be followed. Rather, each person can follow their own thread of life and learn how and where to weave it to the living community of souls.

 

To borrow from the genius of the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson: “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” The wonder of creation is not about what happened a long time ago. Creation continues each time a moment of wholeness occurs in the soul. Then the world becomes again what it has always been and is meant to be, a place of awe and beauty, of wonder and mystery; a living ground of renewal and revelation and the manifest place of creation ongoing.

 

 

 

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Mosaic Multicultural Foundation

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