Friday, July 8, 2011

History V

Again my apologies for not returning to this subject earlier. I truly hope that attention span will increase as I get older, but most likely my inability to concentrate will simply get worse. In any event let us continue.

As we discussed last time, I proposed the idea that legends were the means by which a society taught truths such as the meaning of life, the universe, and everything to its future generations. Using imagery, characters and situations the legend illustrates truths such as the nature of mankind, the moral laws that govern such, and the relationship between the heavens and the earth. Truths that everyone should know but may not have the capacity to understand in forms such as formal logic or other presentations that only certain people can understand or relate to.

Stories are single author works for the most part. They are told by one author and constructed from beginning to end with a lesson or purpose (in theory at least). The greatest stories are those that tap into the very core of our existence and relate truth to us. We resonate with those stories because they communicate to us the truths of our existence and teach us about who we are. They impart knowledge that help us to understand ourselves and how to relate to each other.

Legends are what I would consider "societal stories." Unlike a story proper legends do not have a single author or source. Such stories are formed over time by a culture or society, often with modification or expansion. As such legends seem to be passed down more precisely because they seem to reflect that which society wants passed down. A "collective" story if you will.

These stories and legends, often are based on actual people and events. The narrative of the Flood is but one example. Almost every culture has some version of an apocalyptic flood that destroys most of mankind, but a remnant is saved. This to me suggests that there actually was a flood so devastating to early man that for all intensive purposes only a fraction of mankind remained.

But what is more important is that this event was used by most cultures as a jumping point. From the Hebrew Scriptures to Greek mythology cultures attempted to make sense out of that moment and wove that event into their legends. For the Scriptures the Flood is the just judgment of God on the wicked and the raising and protection of the just. Did the Flood happen though? Was there someone named Noah? Is the Ark real? These questions to me are not the point of the story, and such questions while interesting are trivia compared to the lessons the story attempts to impart to the hearer.

Alas, our modern sense recoil at the concept of deeper meaning. For us it is "just the facts, ma'am." The modern man seems to excel at collecting information and not being able to process it. It is the age old difference between "intelligence" and "wisdom." Our society has plenty of "intelligence" and no wisdom. It is this focus on "facts" apart from deeper meaning that causes our deficit of wisdom, and why History seems to lack any value today. It is this deficit that we will examine in our next post.

No comments: