Saturday, March 31, 2012

Who are the Mythmakers and Why Do They Matter?

       It's been a while since I wrote something substantive about my future world, so I think it's time I started a discourse on the philosophy that underlies the culture of the 26th through 30th centuries -- something I've been threatening to do since I started this publication gambit.  Anyone who has read "The Termite Queen" or who has looked at this blog's page called "My Future History" may remember references to the Mythmakers.  Here's a quote from the "Future History":

       "In the 25th century a mysterious group of humanist philosophers rose from among the ranks of those Underground Archivists. They came to be known by the collective name “Mythmakers” and even in the 30th century they remained anonymous. They composed mainly works of fantasy – drama, fiction, and poetry as well as music and graphic art: works of rare beauty and symbolic power from which emerged a new behavioral code, a new system of morality based not on arbitrary prescriptions of religious dogma but on the humanist tenets of respect for life, the unity of humankind, and personal responsibility.
        "In the 26th century a movement to codify their philosophy began, inaugurating an era known as the Neo-Religious Period. It was a time when society and technology were reconstituting themselves – a time of few wars but of much social and intellectual ferment, including vehement debate concerning the implications of the Mythmakers’ works, the nature and necessity of religion, and the relationship between religion and science. By the middle of the 27th century, humanism had prevailed and the concept of the scientific had been changed forever. Technology, which the Mythmakers had called “soulless,” had become subordinated to a science with a truer meaning: the hunger for knowledge. It could have hardly been otherwise, given the tenor of the Mythmakers’ thinking, which became crystallized in the Twenty Precepts that formed the foundation of 30th century societal philosophy."

       The key word here is "humanism"; the foundation of morality and ethics has shifted from reliance on divergent, competing, and mutually belligerent dogmatic religious systems to a belief in the power of humanity to access the part of its nature that makes it human -- respect and compassion for one's fellow humans and for life in general, the recognition that all varieties of human beings are the same species, and a sense of personal responsibility.
       The Mythmakers took their name from the fact that they composed mostly what we would call fantasy  art.  The Mythmaker Canon consists of
197 long pieces of literature (dramas, novels, narrative poems) (This includes probably the most important one of the lot -- a drama entitled "The Valley of the White Bear," which is discussed in "The Termite Queen.)
681 lyric poems, 97 with musical settings
213 pieces of graphic art
89 major musical compositions
8 operas
       Myth has always been the means to convey truths, and what is myth but fantasy?  What is God but a fantasy of the human spirit?  What are any creation stories but the most wonderful fantasy?  But does that make God or the gods less meaningful?  Myth and gods are not science; they are faith-based.  But by that very nature, they can't be proved to exist; they can be neither denied or proved true or real.  They can only symbolize a truth, which the individual recognizes by some instinct built into the genes.  That means there is no one truth and to set out to assert that there is and to coerce others to subscribe to that view of the truth is a crime against all that makes us human.
       I'm going to devote the remainder of this post to a list of the Twenty Precepts mentioned in the above quotation and referred to at intervals throughout my novel "The Termite Queen," and then later I'll comment on them.  Or maybe some of you would like to comment on them and question them and start a discussion.
   1.  No one can know deity; neither can it be proven that it does not exist.
  2.  Humans have within themselves the ability to see beyond themselves and hence to act rightly without supernatural stimulus.
  3.  Since the purpose of deity for humans, or even whether it had a purpose for humans, is unknowable, it is incumbent upon humans to look within themselves and find the way to right action.
   4.  Humans must take responsibility for their own behavior, not seeking to put blame on imposed rules (of deity or human) or on fate, chance, or the intervention or willfulness of deity.
   5.  Humans will never succeed absolutely in achieving these goals; nevertheless striving for right action is its own purpose.
   6.   The closest humans can attain to deity is the symbolism of myth and art.
   7.   If a human have nothing else, it has its own soul, which must remain inviolate.
   8.   Science has a soul; technology is soulless.
   9.   Conduct your wars with words, not weapons.
 10.   The Right Way is universal; the Truth is parochial and divisive.
 11.  Institutions that grip souls merely for the purpose of gripping souls will always become destructive.
 12.   To achieve understanding of the unlike is a divine goal.
 13.  Love is as unknowable as deity, but every soul attests that it exists.
 14.  Let men and women make the vows of love in the music of the bedchamber, not with empty words.
 15.  Evolution has failed to structure the human organism for moderation; nevertheless the ability to recognize and strive for this virtue distinguishes human beings from other animals.  [Corollary:  The human organism is not innately a peaceful animal, but its ability to recognize and strive for peace sets it apart from other animals.] [Corollary:  Moderation promotes peace.]
 16.  Animals neither punish, seek revenge, forgive, nor blaspheme, nor recognize a need for any of these things.
 17.  There are creatures on this planet [amended later to in the universe] who speak, form symbols, and share emotions; these may be called human.
 18.  Study history and learn from it, but look to the future and do not let yourself be trapped by nostalgia or revenge.
 19.  Take joy in sharing your genetic heritage with all the bio-organisms of this planet [and of the universe – amendment added later].
 20.  Everything in the universe shares in the principle of life, hence we have a moral obligation not to destroy life in our infinitesimal portion of the universe.

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