Four days off from work and class and I still feel like I need a break.
And this is only the second week of the semester. Lord help me.
Over the last four days I have been doing the first set of readings for my classes. I am taking an American Literature class where we are focusing on the friendships between authors, a Rhetoric and Belief class where we are focusing on the rhetoric of sacred spaces, and a Mythology where our focus is all over the place.
I am most excited about Mythology. I spent all day on Sunday reading Joseph Campbell talking about the value of myth, about what it does for people. About how myth is important for a culture or a nation or a people or a family because it explains the why of that culture or nation or people or family.
Campbell argues that myths are, on some level, projections of our psyches. And that the first thing we realize is consciousness. We become aware that we are. And then we experience loneliness, a longing for the other. Our most deeply rooted fear is fear of abandonment. And in the biblical creation myth as well as in the Upanishads, this basic fear is highlighted.
It is not good for man to be alone.
I was amazed by the universality of some myths.
And how there is an African tribal myth about a snake that tempts the first man and first woman to eat the forbidden fruit. And then God expels them.
I am amazed by fairy tales and the way that fairy stories matter for our development.
One of the authors I read was a child psychologist who, quoting Tolkien!, expounded on the importance of fairy stories for children. Because, as Chesterton says, the fairy story doesn’t teach a child about the dragon. The child already knows. The fairy story shows the child that the dragon can be killed.
And this child psychologist was adamant that depriving children of the scary or the horrible in their fairy stories—insisting that the monsters be nice, for instance—deprives them of their ability to sublimate their fears. And it deprives them of the magic they innately believe in. And this is why, he mused, so many turn to drugs or the occult or high-risk activities in adolescence.
I am in wonderment right now. And this is why I love school, because learning new and fascinating things expands my love and embrace of this universe in which we find ourselves.
And so, today, I thankful for Mythology, and the fact that I have the opportunity to spend all day reading about fairytales.