Joseph Campbell: the most evident distinguishing sign is man’s organization of his life according primarily to mythic aims and laws

 

When we consider, however, instead of the physical, the psychological character of our species, the most evident distinguishing sign is man’s organization of his life according primarily to mythic, and only secondarily economic, aims and laws. Food and drink, reproduction and nest-building, it is true, play formidable roles in the lives no less of men than of chimpanzees. But what of the economics of the Pyramids, the cathedrals of the Middle Ages, Hindus starving to death with edible cattle strolling all around them, or the history of Israel, from the time of Saul to right now? If a differentiating feature is to be named, separating human from animal psychology, it is surely this of the subordination in the human sphere of even economics to mythology. And if one should ask why or how any such unsubstantial impulsion ever should have become dominant in the ordering of physical life, the answer is that, in this wonderful human brain of ours there has dawned a realization unknown to the other primates. It is that of the individual, conscious of himself as such, and aware that he, and all that he cares for, will one day die.

– Excerpt From Myths to Live By, Joseph Campbell.

I would take this even a bit further. We organize ourselves and live our life according to our own world of images, and that’s our mythology. I perceive, feel, think, chose, and act, according to my own world of images.

I have an image of a world with planets, this planet, ecosystems, animals, plants, people, cities, societies, cultures. I have images of beings, of matter and spirit. I have images of good and bad, rules, shoulds and shouldn’ts. I have images of life and death, wealth and poverty, justice and injustice. I have images of likes and dislikes. I have images of what will make me happy and what won’t. I have images of my past, the past of others, and the past of the world. I have images of possible and likely futures. I have images of a present. I have images of space and time. All of these and many more make up my world of images, and that’s the world I live within. That’s the world I live by.

That’s – in a very real sense – my mythology.

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