Re: myth and ideology

Richard G. Calo (rgcalo@EDEN.RUTGERS.EDU)
Sun, 7 Apr 1996 20:56:27 EDT

On Sunday, April 7, Thomas Kavanagh wrote:

> Yes, that is why I have always wondered about "traditional" folklorists
> who merely gathetred the stories and not the "lived reality" which they
> justified.

But this brings me back to my original dilemma with Justine. What
becomes of such a "lived reality" when I look at the 'myths' of others,
even if I keep them within the context of the practices they justify?
If I am a Christian, then the life of Christ has some kind of meaning
for me. At the very least, it sets a number of my behaviors-- I may do
volunteer work for a soup kitchen, I may try to 'turn the other cheek,'
and in other ways try to live up to the model established through Christ's
example. There is a belief component that runs under these actions
(maybe this is the 'ideology' that Fred Pearl set out in his distinction
between m & i a couple of posts back), and which gives meaning, or
makes sense of the story of Christ as I get it in the New Testament,
and as it is accepted in my Christian community or congregation.
However, when I read the the Japanese story of Izanami and
Izanagi, try as I might, it is unacceptable to me. Knowing that the story
may once have justified the custom that the male must speak first when
entering a room at the same time as a female, still does not make it
acceptable. In this sense, knowing how the story works in relation to
the practice, or even why it works, is not sufficient to account for its
effect on those who believe it-- or in other words, I may have accounted
for the myth's "reality," but I cannot say that it is a "lived reality." I
would need to believe it (in the same way I would believe in Christ if I am a
Christian) for the reality to become a "lived" one. And this appears to be
just what I cannot do.
If it is this belief then, that accounts for making the reality a "lived
reality," this belief is also the aspect of myth with which I can do nothing
when I encounter the myths of others.

Other than that, I'm prepared to agree that this is how the mythic
operates, or even how it is operated upon as it gets drawn up into
political interests:

> I would say that it becomes mythic in the use. The historical "fact" that
> JEB Stuart turned left (north) at the corner of West Montgomery and
> Jefferson in Rockville, MD in late June 1863 is merely a piece of
> inherited culture, somewhat mythic as the source for community identity,
> for those in the neighborhood. It becomes political when the neighborhood
> tries to put up a historical marker.