out of all knowledge…

History became legend, legend became myth…”

— Galadriel, Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

It is unfair to myth to let it become a mere synonym of error and/or antiquated, foolish notions. Joseph Campbell includes the following in description of term and its true function: “A ritual is the enactment of a myth.”

Rites serve civilization as on-the-job training for establishing the connection of individual to the social environment. Ritual dramatizes recognition – in the sense of both comprehension and the act honoring. Such practices serve as a foundation to assess our culture and, hopefully, to understand our talent and role within it. Myth is instructional metaphor intended to build sameness and community not bring it to raze and ruin. Ritual and mythology are far from absent in today’s society.

The word and its importance are being abused. At least half the time it is seen on the internet it is pressed into service as part of clickbait. “Ten Myths About…” is, more often than not, the beginning of an attempt at indoctrination – leading the reader away from genuine truth. This usage is propaganda not a mechanism that may imbue a person with effectiveness.

Myth and ritual used this way is exploitation of the trusting souls and their beliefs. Those who engage in this misuse view their targets as dupes and rubes; that’s exactly the strategy of a cult.

There is a dichotomy in how we view ancient civilization. In terms of their religion we represent them as naïve primitives without the sophistication to understand plainly stated morals given after highly stylized tales. Yet at the same time we laud the same people as the inventors of our celebrated ideas of republic and democracy. “Behold the gullible genius!”

The larger-than-life tale is best used as mnemonic device or as an attention-getting preface. In contrast the hoax and the bold-faced lie depend on reaching the impressionable.

For both the individual and society resisting indoctrination depends on enough introspection to know what we believe and why. We must maintain our memory (and history) properly fit and exercise due diligence to confirm new information before writing it into our memory as actual fact.

Critical thinking is our best tool after domesticated fire and the wheel. Healthy skepticism, however, is not the same as ineducable suspicion. Willful opposition to new data is deplorable embrace of ignorance. As a practice that is certain to earn us a reputation as superstitious post-Neanderthals.

taprobane

In 139ᴀᴅ Ptolemy is said to have produced a map of the demi-continent called Taprobane (Ταπροβανῆ). There is no evidence that he traveled across the Indian Ocean nor any account of his having been asked to describe any such journey. Still, for centuries others copied the gigantic island onto newer maps and expeditions hoped to find it.

Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds is famous due to the panic it caused. Following a similar dramatization in Quito, Ecuador on 12 Feb 1949 the aftermath was greater. As many as twenty people were killed. There is no record in either case of people simply changing the station.

Myth is not error or falsehood. Mistakes are mistakes and lies are lies. We are the vanguard against the latter armed with the former when properly understood and utilized.

Or else —

Five centuries from now will John McCain be on his way to being regarded as the builder of the Panama Canal and began construction of the Great Wall on the southern border of The United States of New Laurentia. Will the senator’s maverick nature eventually inflate his image to the equivalent of a Trickster god?

And how much truth will be salvaged about McCain by any euhemerism at the end of the next millennium?


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all together now…

handshakeThe desire for diversity to be respected is understandable and vital. Identity is not defined by region, race, or religion alone. We are, each of us, defined by our thoughts and our experience. This need not isolate us but it does mean we are each the ultimate minority – a minority-of-one.

“No man is an island entire of itself;…”
John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII (1623)

We require society and we all contribute to it as a state. Until 1956, the unofficial motto of the United States was E pluribus unum (meaning Out of many, one). Diversity was, at least tacitly, understood as a strength for 174 years. In the same breath, so was Unity. We’re having trouble with both these days. It wouldn’t be scientific to claim that the change of motto was the sole cause but it might mark the beginning of a decline that’s lasted 59 years and counting.

The sociopolitical climate of the United States has become too fertile a soil for the notion that liberty means absolute freedom from having to follow the dictates of any authority. A very recent example involves a Texas man who literally jumped to fatal encounter with an alligator. He is reported to have said, “[Expletive deleted] that alligator.” after seeing a sign that warned against swimming in Adams Bayou. It seems very likely that he was metaphorically saying, “[Expletive deleted] the Man.”

Signs like the one he ignored exist for a reason. But they’ve all become metaphors for why Liberty does not mean do anything you want, anywhere, at any time.

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)

Liberty is a much more complicated concept than seems commonly supposed. It is meant as a process by which we establish and maintain freedom of the individual from interference or coercion. Intrinsic is a duty of respecting the equal rights of others and just laws expressive of just powers designed to safeguard the equal rights of all individuals. The mechanism of this specific freedom includes self-respect as a spiritual virtue, self-reliance as an economic virtue, and self-discipline as a sociopolitical virtue.

On Sept. 24, 2013, at 8:04 (EST), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) read Dr. SeussGreen Eggs and Ham during a filibuster on the Senate floor. It would have been more constructive had he chosen to read both Chicken Little and the Little Red Hen; the sky may indeed be falling and we all have to pull together.

I am a minority. I am a Self. The same is true of you. A community is a union of interdependent Selves who work best as a whole when each is possessed of self-respect (the spring of respect for others), self-reliance (the well of an economy that benefits all), and self-discipline (the fount and foundation of most other civic and civil worth).

alliesOr, to use a more famous quote…

YKNOW

Takin’ it back…

Having been a member of the Boy Scouts, the presumption that all badges and patches were meant in celebration of both enjoyable experiences and the accumulation of experience could be a forgivable error.

When I first learned about the Star of David badges that the Jews in WWII Germany wore, my preliminary surmise was that they must have been voluntary symbols of resistance and pride. My mother responded in horror at the idea. She was neither an historian nor particularly skilled teacher but I did learn the truth about the Nazi intent. They were meant as marks of shame and easy identification of “undesirables.”

It wasn’t until high school, however, that I learned of one more such mark. By the end of the 1970s, gay rights advocates adopted the pink triangle – as reclamation, as an emblem. At that time, I suspect I should have suspected there were more triangular signs.

That prompt – to know the full list – came when I joined the Freemasons. In that case, as with all non-Jewish political nonconformists, the Masons detected and captured by the Nazis were forced to wear a red triangle.

In the United States these days, we hear all parts of the political spectrum engaging in hyperbolic assertions that one party or another is bordering near fascism. While we must always be vigilant to oppose the rise of another Nazi party, the ubiquity of accusation makes it difficult to see the lines that must not be crossed.

repeatDuring the time of the original Nazi Party, a declaration of loyalty was required. Not making such a pledge “earned” a triangle at least. If the same system were used today, the image at the left might be on my sleeve and pant leg.

It would indicate a Mason who continued to meet after a presumed warning, internment, and intent to escape.

The E stands for Erziehungshäftlinge, which designated intellectuals and suspected organizers of resistance.

In addition, everything seems to be dubbed “the civil rights issue of our time”, including – most recently – the impact of climate change. More hyperbole. More blur.

Meanwhile, there is a group quietly making use of this information. I am not affiliated and only discovered the white triangle while trying to find an image of liberty that was not a photograph of the statue stood on Ft. Wood, Bedloes Island (i.e., The Statue of Liberty).

Liberty Symbol describes itself as an association with the goal of support, development, and promotion of individual and collective liberties. This effort has adopted a white triangle as a symbol for those who see themselves as promoters of said liberties. The symbol serves a dual purpose – also being an emblem for those who have had their liberty curtailed unnecessarily.

Too quietly, Liberty Symbol offers the symbol as a public domain icon and encourages its use. The white triangle was chosen in another reclamation of a sort. I’ve purchased a fair few and given two as gifts and tokens of kinship.

lsWhen placing an order for a white triangle pin, two are shipped. “Because if I am, one of my friends certainly is too.” The pair cost just $5.66 (US) or 5€. And if an order is placed, avoid a delay in shipping by sending an email to the maker noting your order: contact@libertysymbol.com

Note: Acheter is the French word for to buy.

Liberty Symbol’s fine print ends with the following:

All the earnings, if there are some, will be used to pursue the association object true publications and event organization. The association has no employee and will regularly publish its accounting book details.”