Maybe Myths Will Save Us

by Bob Schwartz

You can’t fight and eliminate myth. You can try. You can drive it away and banish it, but it will always turn up within the city walls. Because it is inside you and all the citizens.

When I began reading comic books, I didn’t know those stories were myths. When I first heard the stories of the Bible, I didn’t know those were myths. In the big world, something about these myths proved to be irresistibly and unstoppably popular. Comic book myths became an entertainment mega-industry. Religious myths laid the foundation for the beliefs of billions.

Enlightenment and modernism took on the task of demythologizing. That project has never been wholly successful. It is instead like whack-a-mole: bash one myth down and another will pop up. You may not recognize something as myth, but there it is. Bigger than life, embodying truths that defy everyday experience and evidence. Not only bigger, but more significant.

As the essayist Joan Didion wrote, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Maybe instead of trying to stop telling ourselves stories, maybe instead of trying to loosen our embrace of myths (both impossible anyway), maybe we keep conscious of the myths, try to let go of the unhelpful ones, and try to choose better and more beneficial ones.