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Guntis Sics' 15 Minutes of Fame Teambuilding blog
Version: Rough cut

November 29, 2005
Title: Myth and Reality in the workplace

Abstract: Myths, Magic and Team Building

Body: "Myths 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 sorrow.

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 work.

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.