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The Five Myths of Modernity

January 13, 2018


"The world is made less by the battles won and lost than the stories it loves and believes in." --Harold Goddard


Over the course of the next few weeks in The Power Class we will be confronting what I call the Five Myths of Modernity.  The original meaning of the word myth is story. It was only much later in history when myths came to be seen as untrue things. Here's the deal with stories, we make them true by our belief in them. To change aspects of culture or self means changing the stories, and to change the stories we must see them first. I introduce my mythos of modernity as a way to your own. What stories do you see present around you that must be questioned or transformed? How do they relate to what you know and understand about power in yourself, your life and work?


The Five Myths of Modernity:

1. Duality::


The first myth of modernity says that there are two ways about the world, right, wrong, good, bad, real, not real. This divide of thinking originates in spiritual world views of some of the historical religions. Historical, in this sense, means written down. The oral traditions of many lineages point to a more nuanced worldview, to divinities that are not all good or all bad, but who carry qualities of the both. As a result, people were not in constant moral conflict about being "good" or "bad" but instead working toward spectrums of possibility in life according to codes of conduct, like honor. When we investigate duality as a story, we can begin to notice the way it manifests in our life. For example, the idea of either/or when considering options (I have to be either academic or spiritual, I have to be either a mother or a writer) rather than a both/and approach where I am able to inhabit the all in varying degrees through my life. The presence of duality has been adopted by pseudo-science (I say pseudo because so much of science proves the non-duality of this mysterious world) as real-not real. This concept seemed to trouble ancient peoples much less than it does our modern culture. Another area where duality is very present is alive/dead, animate/inanimate. When we begin to question the concept of duality, we open ourselves to the possibility of an expansion and fullness of expression.


2. Linearity


Ah, linear time. Time as we know it is a human invention, one fairly recent in our history. Our historical construct of time comes from Christianity (BC being, of course, Before Christ...now BCE or Before Current Era, AD being After Death...etc.), and the clock schedule of our days originated in the 1600's...not that long ago in terms of human history. So what was time before these inventions? How does time serve the status quo? What is your experience of time? What is mythic time, spiral time, nonlinear time and how would your life be different if you were to disavow linearity? Linearity and duality are intimate partners. In fact, all of these stories enmesh, creating a fabric that modern culture calls "reality" but our ancestors would see as a kind of madness.


3.  Progress


Progress is fueled by the idea of evolution, that we are advancing as a species and things are so much better now then they were back in the olden days of yore. The idea of progress has rationalized genocide, white supremacy, sexism and colonial rule. Progress allowed for the witch hunts to take on a frenzied momentum, and permitted the advent of land ownership through individual right versus community. We have been told that our ancient ancestors were backward, ill and stupid, that "primitive" cultures around the world are an impediment to true society. No structure has been more insidious in the creation of this story than capitalism, which demands progress at any price. The truth is evolution happens over hundreds of thousands or millions of years, not a few thousand, and our ancestors were more advanced intellectually, spiritually and politically than we were taught in school. In fact the suppression and misinterpretation of pre-Christian, pre-capitalist, pre-feudal societies has led to some of the most erroneous history ever taught. For example, the idea that Columbus "discovered" the "new world" by "determining" the world was round. Forgive the quotes, there's some frustration here. A historical document created in 1200 for northern European leaders indicates that hundreds of years before Columbus people knew the world was round. The earliest mentions of a round earth happened before the birth of Christ. Questioning progress, fusing progress with nonlinearity and simultaneous, non-dualistic thinking opens our lives to the scope of true humanness, which is not governed by external concepts of achievement, success and improvement, but deeper ideologies of full spectrum life.


4. Permanence


Things have always been this way. This is a thematic trope I've heard so much over the past few years as people are defending the racist, sexist, speciesist, capitalist status quo. The stories of the status quo are that humans have always been sexist, racist, violent, domineering, greedy... The problem with these stories is that they are simply not true. Human memory does not seem to extend much past decipherable written history, with special privileges given to the pas thousand years or so (see all the myths above for rationale as to why). But taking a new lens to paleolithic and neolithic cultures indicates a shaping of social mores very much in alignment with egalitarianism, peace, partnership...and certainly capitalism has had a short stint as an economic system...one that has proved it to cause immeasurable harm to the many in support of the few. To dispute the myth of permanence is to embrace the myth of transformation, the myths of our ancestors obscured, silenced, misunderstood, to respect their depth wisdom and honor their voices. The story of cycle brings us into alignment with potential healing, growth, and new concepts of self and worth.


5. Separateness


The final myth of modernity is one that keeps us from spirit, nature, ancestors, community, family in a state of loneliness and isolation. Never before in human history have so many people felt separate from the life force source of the natural world and lineage traditions.   But that separation is an illusion, becoming real in our belief or fear that it is so. The more we learn about all of the ways we are connected to this life and world, from the scientific facts of interdependence to the beautiful realities of genealogy, the more we refute the story of separateness with the very fact of our living. Connections make us sovereign, self-joyful, more immune to the siren call of consumerism.  Connections make us content, less likely to look outside ourselves for affirmation and approval.  Connections make us purposeful, in service to all of history and the cosmic story of wonder this miracle world is.  When we live connected, we are empowered.   A story of power always cycles in connection.

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