|The universe is
made up of stories, not of atoms.
Sics' 15 Minutes of Fame Teambuilding blog
Version: Rough cut
Title: Myth and Reality in the workplace
Magic and Team Building
are universal and timeless stories that reflect and shape our lives
- they explore our desires, our fears,our longings, and provide
narratives that remind us what it means to be human." From A Short
History of Myths by Karen Armstrong.
It occurred to me that movies are the same, basically relating and creating
myths about the human condition. Strangely though, myths as such have fallen
into some disrepute as the world of science and rational thinking takes the
high ground. Myths are seen to be irrational and illogical and in particular,
to have no place in the business world with it's focus on facts and figures.
But is this necessarily true?
Think about how the imagination has been the driving force behind most of
civilisations major advances, the faculty that allows us to think about something
that has no objective existence until after it is conceived. First we think
of it, then we make it happen. This is the stuff of Myths, ideas that go
beyond everyday experience.
Mythology is an art form that points beyond history to what is timeless in
human existence, and it is a mistake to regard myth as an inferior mode of
thought, which can be cast aside when humans have attained the age of reason.
Mythology is not an attempt at history, but rather a make believe game that
lets us ask questions about our world, lets us glimpse new possibilities
and ask questions which have provoked some of the most important discoveries
in philosophy,science and technology. The ancient Greeks understood that
humans needed mythical thinking to balance out the everyday , logical thinking.
Logos, as they called it was the logical,pragmatic and scientific mode of
thought that enabled them to function successfully in the world. For example,
Logos could tell you how to hunt and kill prey for food, but only a myth
could allow you to deal with the implications of killing something. Logos
was efficient, practical and rational, but it could not answer questions
about the ultimate value of human life nor could it mitigate human pain and
From the very beginning, Homo Sapiens has understood that Logos and Myth
had separate jobs to do. He used Logos to develop new skills and tools, and
Myth, with it's accompanying rituals, to reconcile himself to the tragic
facts of life that threatened to overwhelm him, and prevent him from acting
effectively. This last point is worth noting again...to prevent him from
acting effectively....because I think it has far reaching implications.
Human beings have always been able to organise their society with maximum
efficiency and to work together as a team. Businesses are a fine example
of this in the modern world, smoothly functioning congregations of humans
working towards a common goal, and yet many workers feel a hollowness going
to the office every day. They feel perhaps as if there is no point in what
they are doing, no meaning they can discern day to day. I believe this is
where Myths have real value and films have to some extent filled a gap in
our Mythless , logical, scientific society.
Most films deal with the human condition, the big questions...love,life,death,sorrow,grief...the
list goes on. Sure, a film may have a plot that is the surface map, but all
good films have a solid core of myth beneath them.
Think of Star Wars, a film about the survival of the human race, the question
being, are we going to continue as humans into the future. And Apocalypse
Now, a war film but with some serious questions about killing and survival
at it's core. Short films also tend to deal with big questions, no matter
what the plot may be. Questions that all human beings constantly ask...am
I going to die? Who will love me? What is the meaning of life?
We see quite often in our filmmaking workshops a paradigm shift in the way
participants think once they have been freed from the detail of everyday
Once we get them thinking about the bigger questions, the Mythical questions
that are at the heart of life, their story ideas take on a much more human
quality. They can leave Logos behind temporarily and delve into a deeper,
more spiritual side of their minds. Of course, they will still need Logos
to help them make the films, but tapping into their mythical side is a crucial
part of telling a story.
Well, more next time. I invite your feedback.