12.18 Fairy Tales and Myths Are More Than Real

When we ask whether a story or a myth is Real, what do we mean?

Put another way, how do we discern whether stories and myths are True?

And what do we mean when we ask whether something is True?

The stories, fairy tales, and myths that grip us grip us for a reason. They are remembered, passed down, and told generation through generation for a reason.

Let us take for example a fairy tale or myth of a young man living an ordinary life, who witnesses something that awakens in him the understanding that there is more, and impels him to set out on an epic adventure. Along the Way he confronts and overcomes obstacles and enemies that arise to threaten his progress, and is faced with malevolence that shatters his naiveté. He is afflicted by bandits, deceived by swindlers, tempted by temptresses, and stalked by predators. After many trials, toils, and snares, he reaches a great river or chasm that appears impossible to cross. Although it looks like his journey has come to a disappointing end, he falls to his knees, prays, cries, and asks for help. A Guide appears, who gives him a Plan, and shows him the Way across The Chasm. As a consequence of his courage and persistence, he overcomes the errors of his youthful ways and becomes a wise and fully fledged warrior / adventurer, who subsequently meets a young woman surrounded by goblins and fiends in the forest, saves her, and awakens her with True Love's Kiss. When they return, she discovers that her savior is the heir to the Kingdom. But the Kingdom has become corrupted because the king is Old and Blind, and surrounded by wicked advisors. So the adventurer must remember his true identity, rise above the chaos, awaken his father, vanquish corruption and injustice from the kingdom, and reestablish a proper new order of Truth, Righteousness, and Justice so that all the people of the towns and all the creatures of the field can dwell in harmony and security, free from the fear of evil.

An epic adventure in 10 short sentences. Is that story True? Is it a Real story?

It is easy to scoff and say, "of course it's not True."

A far more intelligent response is to answer the question with a question, and the Profound Question here is What Do You Mean By True?

Of course this story is not true, because we just made it up.

However the reason we were able to make that story up in 5 minutes is that it is the essence of 100 stories we have heard in books, movies, plays, and poems throughout our life. The reason it is the essence of 100 other stories is that they each in turn reflect the essence of 100 other stories, and those 10,000 stories reflect the essence of life.

It is like a distilling machine.

100 authors survey the world around them, and consolidate their experiences into fictional books that reflect the essence of their experience. They are fiction, but they ring True.

Then those 100 books are distilled down into 10 sentences.

Those sentences lack all the specifics of which person, which time, which place, which obstacles, which enemies, which chasm, which forest, which girl, which corrupt advisors, and which kingdom... but the patterns of the stories have been abstracted out and set forth, and we intuitively grasp the new story because its reflects the Pattern Language of life.

The closer to the ground a story gets, the longer and more specific it can grow, and it take on the local flavors, names, cultures, and challenges of a specific time and place.

As the individual story gets more specific and detailed, we can argue that it becomes more True in the sense that we know that it happened in a specific time and place.

Conversely, we could argue that the more abstract the story becomes, the more True it becomes, because instead of merely accurately representing a pattern that occurred in 1 time and place, which could have been a unique aberration, it reflects a generalized pattern that occurred in 10,000 times and places, with subtle variations.

The stories that grandparents tend to want to share with their grandchildren are not the specifically True stories, but the generally True stories, for they contain within them so much more Wisdom and Truth. They may not be specifically True, in the sense that they may not reflect precisely what happened in any one time and place, but they are Meta True, in the sense that they generally reflect what happens in life. Whether that makes them more or less Real and True depends on how you define those words.