THE MYTHMAKER author Mary Harrell, talks with LITERACY AND LEARNING IN THE CONTENT AREA's Sharon Kane about myth from a depth psychological perspective.
SK: What is myth, the way you think about it?
MH: For me, personal myth is a combination of several streams of story. It’s also the best memory of our past, as well as our resultant identity in the present. Personal myth includes an objective identity; it’s in us but not exclusively of us. This invites us to acknowledge that personal myth possesses an autonomy, an energy beyond our control, plans, or desires. How’s that as a humbling thought? Then there’s the idea of the direction of our lives. We know too much to pretend that life moves in a straight line from past, to present, to future. I've learned from Dennis Patrick Slattery the wonderful author of Riting Myth: Mythic Writing that our personal myth plays out, not in a linear way, one event following another, from birth to death, but rather, as I've said, like a spiral. Each present day holds the echoes of our yesterdays, echoes even, of our families’ yesterdays. Memories are surely part of our personal myth, but they aren’t accurate accounts of this or that event. Instead, they’re recollections of what our soul, our deepest self, needs us to remember. Mythic telling is much more real than factual reporting because it’s dynamic, symbolic, and directed by an inner center that needs the storyteller to give voice to the subtlety and wonder undergirding the experience of our lives. For me, personal myth holds an energy that transcends individual experience. It may be that transcendent aspect of myth that makes some stories resonate with readers, whether or not they’ve actually experienced the particular loss or challenge embedded in the story. I love that, as a culture, we’re reclaiming the reality behind symbolism. The value of matters of the heart was lost when the Age of Reason made science and mind a bit too important. We stopped noticing that the fictions of our lives hold as much truth as anything the reasonable mind can offer. I do make a distinction between those fictions that are lies and those that are valuable creations of soul life.