I personally think that modern science has dealt a harsh, low-blow to mythology and the ancient oral traditions of wisdom and understanding as well as to the inarticulate speech of the heart. These days it seems to me clearly apparent that myths and ancient oral traditions have virtually been totally discredited, even disqualified and relegated to the irrelevant, irredeemably primitive, uneducated, unsubstantiated, fanciful, even useless ‘old wives tales’, fit only for ignorant children as placatory bed-time stories.
Our modern scientific culture now demands more detail, more qualification, more empirical evidence, more factual substantiation for meaning and truth. For me this could be seen as a very unscientific process in and of itself. My reason for saying this is that our scientific era is extremely youthful and a very, very late entry onto the stage of the history of the universe and even that of man. In terms of man’s history it is only very recently that deductive reasoning has entered into the equation. Perhaps for this ‘new-kid-on-the-block’ to be standing up and confidently declaring such brazen categorical absolutes is very arrogant and possibly much like a kindergarten child babbling on about their own wisdom in the presence of others more than 10 times their age and experience. It’s not that the kindergarten child is less than human, disqualified or even in error, but the reality is that at around 6 years of age the average child still has a great number of years of practical testing and application to go through to let experience catch up and test the eternal wisdom thus far acquired.
There is an old saying that goes something like this, “before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their moccasins.” I’d like us to attempt to walk a mile if we could in the moccasins of Jesus who was not a scientist according to our times or interpretation of scientific and who spoke not in detailed, scientific terms but almost exclusively in parables, ‘dark’ sayings, stories, mystically veiled teachings, even somewhat confusing metaphors and mysteries, and not only that, but in a local language that was very possibly much like that used by a loving parent honouring the inexperienced, infantile logic and comprehension of the precious but young and naïve offspring and using analogies and subject matter and content easily accessible to the infant.
In his life and conduct he never closed down the teachings of the law or the prophets but instead opened them up. He seemed to turn the restrictive funnel of the legislated religious code into an open sluice gate of freedom and opportunity. This served to open and liberate the minds of his hearers to such an extent that they even began to threaten the political grip the religious leaders had in that day. He never did this by bringing systematic religious definition or empirical detail but instead he unveiled a compassionate, gracious revelation of the ancient sacred traditions in word and deed that was of such magnitude that even the highly educated teachers themselves tried persistently to get him to clarify his meaning and intent over and over again. He never responded to them to their satisfaction so they relentlessly tried to trap and corner him as to who exactly he was, what exactly he was doing, what exactly he was meaning, by what authority he spoke and why he spoke and lived the way he did. Eventually they could only trump up fictitious charges against him and use these as the only desperate way they could aim any accusation his way.
Yet amazingly Jesus simply continued to tell stories. He never took the bait by entering into the fray at their level. He just continued to speak in parables and veiled sayings, presenting a tapestry for the sincere and humble to enjoy and the less than open to hate. Yes, he did say many other things as well and some of these were specific and mostly quite revolutionary, but even these seemed to be so veiled to all who heard (including his closest disciples), that they too were like mysterious stories in and of themselves. He spoke of the kingdom of heaven not being an external thing in accordance with any legislated, ritual, social, political, religious, ethical or even moral code, but rather something that was within each individual person, right there, within easy reach, but yet also so far away. He also said that if they destroyed the holy temple he would raise it up in 3 days. This really set them all flapping. Once when questioned as to his authority he even said most disturbingly that he himself was alive before Abraham was born. Today we would have mocked and certified him without a moments hesitation and would have felt content with this act of worship. For this we killed him yet he never even began to respond by explaining what he meant even when his own life hung literally in the balance. This amazes me and opens up even more questions. … and so the stories continue to this day.
The way I see it is that empirical science, as much as it thrills and fascinates me, as much as it amazingly answers so many of my questions, challenges my myopia and rattles my complacency, unwittingly seems to assume that the universe is all completely rational, finite, measurable, comprehensible, and ordered according to our own very linear, deductive way of thinking and in so doing to my mind, sadly it closes down truth. In its quest to fully understand and discover the truth, to define, contain, measure and systematise the laws of the universe, to bring order to our thinking, it to my mind seems only to limit, contain and perhaps even deploy at times great faith in order to close down the threatening wonder of the vastness that is all around us. Science’s passionate quest to uncover the secrets of the universe and thereby comprehend all things fully by way of reasonable research is to my mind very possibly a reaction to the presence of the vast unanswered reaches of the universe we find ourselves in and something the religious order of society had long held the reigns in … but in light of this all I do have to ask logically if anyone can really open up the truth by closing it down? For me the only way I can imagine personally standing on the outstretched head of my own shadow at sunrise is to extinguish the sun itself.
And also for me, as frail and as whimsical as they might appear to us all to be, the ancient oral traditions, the parables, the fables, even mythology, theology, the sacred texts, the deep mysticisms, spirituality, the intuitive and the like, all seem in many ways mostly to assume by faith that there are more questions than answers, that there might well even be more than one possible answer or explanation to anything and that the universe is infinite and eternally vast – perhaps even forever beyond our ability to fully comprehend. They seem to be able in some ways to embrace that the origins, like the ends of the universe are possibly equally beyond our full understanding but that the journey is well worth the taking. …. Except perhaps for the fanatically religious fundamentalists, I must add, who sadly to my mind have perhaps unwittingly managed to adopt more of a scientific paradigm to their spirituality than they are prepared to acknowledge, persistently seeking not the truth, but justification for their mostly unexplored beliefs. They also seem to be preoccupied with trying to quantify, systematise, and codify the sacred texts not necessarily because they have faith, but probably mostly through insecurity and fear. In my opinion the obsessive quoting of chapter, verse and intellectual reference is not really used because of godly wisdom or humble, righteous respect and accuracy, but primarily as a fear based reaction to the scientific era and strangely, strangely, what can be seen as actually an emulation of the scientific revolutions methodologies that seem to threatens their frail religious and political stability. To these too I have to ask reasonably if anyone can really open up the truth by closing it down?
But maybe there is a way ahead for the humble and meek, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit, those who mourn and hunger and thirst for right standing in a universe that persists in spinning like wheels within wheels, even spinning in many directions all at once and filling us with virtually unquenchable wonder?
Maybe a myth is indeed as good as a mile?