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Archive for August, 2007
If Myth makes us, then ‘cartography’ reminds us of the source of that Myth…the Land.
Most maps defines their use by what they leave out, not by what they show. Yet mythic maps must transform us into fully realized creatures of the Land. The stories that the Land tells us as humans must teach us how to live, must create a living map, in every human body. The depth and breadth of a mythic map encourages us on an ever-renewing journey into the revelation of the totality of place.
The word ‘cartography’, by its roots, implies a ‘writing-down’ of this map, but more and more I contest that. Some things we must not write down. I continue to use the word ‘cartography’ because we have no word for what we must become, an embody-ing of a Land that nourishes us, land-dreamers.
Some maps we can only ‘read’ by walking them, in our minds or in our bodies. These maps matter most to me. These maps return us to the earth. These maps rescue our starving selves.
Myth, to the modern world, means ‘made-up’, ‘metaphorical’, and ‘unreal’.
Of course, real myths build very real worlds from their spell, as we can see around us: the legacy of diseased and metastisizing myths consuming the living world in their darkness of ‘one right way to live’, ‘humans separate from nature’, ‘man must conquer the world’.
These pathetic and flickering mythis even then don’t hold a candle to true sustaining mythology, mythology raised on reality therapy, a constant attention to the speech of the living world.
So I say ‘Mythic…’ because Myth reminds us of our true selves, of what Jeanette Armstrong calls ‘the land-dreaming capacity’, a core reality that defines and identifies our human natures. To question the Land, to let the Land dream us, means to experience constant revelation, a constant stream of insight and overwhelming awakening to the vast, colorful, and intensely powerful personalities that churn and vitalize the world.
Every story, every movie that we consume, produced by this culture, counters this capacity to allow the Land to dream us. Every tale of humans talking to each other, the soap opera of their petty desires, struggles, and insanities, while in the background trees wave and creak, air swirls and grumbles, birds scream, all protesting ‘don’t you see us…don’t you see us..’.
Which Myths will make our bodies? Perhaps like the story that science tells, of how our bodies remake themselves, down to the last cell, every seven years, perhaps we can remake ourselves with truly sustaining myths in a similar amount of time. A land-dreaming capacity healed by the insistance of allowing a living Land to dream us, rather than the dead one offered up by the culture magicians employed by this dying modern world.
How easily do we abandon Myths, to embrace new ones? Well, it takes a first step, an informed consent, an awakening of the perception that in every story this culture offers, the Land sits silently in the background, weeping: ‘you have abandoned us, you have forgotten us, please see us, please hear us again’.
My Mother told me a story about the origin of Colleges in England. She says that they started out in pubs, as gatherings of folks, colleagues, coming together on specific nights to talk about their favorite subjects. Over time, they organized themselves more and more, until they ‘graduated’ into institutions. Universities conversely stem from monasteries and the church, from an intact and fixed conception of cosmology, ready to deliver the truth to its adherents.
But Colleges…they started out as neighbors talking to each other about what mattered.
Apocryphal? I don’t really care one way or the other, because the story teaches me something real about what matters. Talking to each other in the evenings will rescue us far more surely than all the Ph.D.’s in the world. We have work to do, as colleagues, neighbors, and families. Let’s get to it. In parks and public right-of-ways, in abandoned lots and condemned ruins, in living rooms and pubs, let’s get together on the Land that waits for us to return our hearts to her, and start talking.
…Because of some major moving around of priorities…the College will start running under a whole new structure here soon! Stay tuned.