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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic


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Currently reading

The Summer Tree
Guy Gavriel Kay
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Nancy MacLean
Progress: 134/574 pages
The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance
Northrop Frye
Progress: 43/200 pages
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer
The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende

Reading progress update: I've read 18%.

The Power of Myth - Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers

Previous update: 



I'm just not getting Joseph Cambell.


CAMPBELL: That’s exactly it. That’s the significance of the puberty rites. In primal societies, there are teeth knocked out, there are scarifications, there are circumcisions, there are all kinds of things done. So you don’t have your little baby body anymore, you’re something else entirely. When I was a kid, we wore short trousers, you know, knee pants. And then there was a great moment when you put on long pants. Boys now don’t get that. I see even five-year-olds walking around with long trousers. When are they going to know that they’re now men and must put aside childish things?


MOYERS: Where do the kids growing up in the city—on 125th and Broadway, for example—where do these kids get their myths today?

Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth (p. 9). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


If I understood the whole notion of "myth," it was as an attempt to explain the unexplainable in a way that tied the invisible to the visible, the magical to the mundane, so that we mere humans didn't have to explain them over and over.  So Apollo drove the chariot of the sun across the sky every day without fail, and we didn't have to worry each morning whether the big light would rise or not.  We put our trust in the myth and could go on with our lives.


But times change; most of us don't need a myth to explain the earth's rotation and the appearance that the sun rises and sets.  We put our trust in science and can go on with our lives.


Wearing long or short pants as a myth of manhood?  Hello?  What the hell is that all about?  Does he want us to go back to knocking out teeth for puberty ceremonies?  What's the myth that justifies that?  What's the social convention that's served by making all the men toothless?


Maybe if I didn't have a smattering of cultural anthropology in my educational background, maybe then I'd be impressed by Campbell. 


Maybe if he provided a connection between myth and ritual, it would make more sense.


MOYERS: What kind of new myth do we need?


CAMPBELL: We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet. A model for that is the United States. Here were thirteen different little colony nations that decided to act in the mutual interest, without disregarding the individual interests of any one of them.

Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth (pp. 30-31). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


To me, this isn't myth at all - it's politics.  Maybe there are myths that serve political ends, but I just don't feel Campbell is touching that aspect of it.  Maybe Moyers, who was at the time of this writing and I believe still is a (liberal) Southern Baptist, found Campbell impressive, but I don't.  Campbell is blathering to a gullible audience of one.


But that one isn't me.