The concept of mythology has preoccupied human life for many decades. Myths may refer to sacred narratives or stories that try to explain how human beings and other world phenomenon came into being as seen in their present form or state.
Although many scholars of mythology have used this terminology in many different ways, the fundamental element of myths is that they all tend to resemble stories with traditional origins.
The analysis of both traditional and modern mythology shows that the main myths are characterized by gods, fictional heroes and supernatural beings or powers all shaping the human mind. Myths have served to shape human kind through establishing models of behavior.
Through storytelling, individuals develop tendencies of retrogressing into the mythical past, thus drawing closer to the divine truths. This paper seeks to analyze the traditional and modern myths with a view to demonstrated similarities as well as differences. In the next phase of the discussion, the paper will enumerate the symbolic imperativeness of myths, and their influence to my perceptions about the world.
A private and unrecognized dream exists as a myth within the absence of an effective mythology. The Biblical conceptualizations of the origin of man provide an excellent form of a myth in the antiquity while the relatively new myth of the Superman offers the best illustration of a myth in the contemporary society. The representations of the origin of man from a religious standpoint offer me a unique opportunity to understand how humanity and its related facets came to be.
The Biblical story of the origin of man is perhaps the most upheld belief appealing to the universal conceptualization of humankind and its origin. Although religious dogmas and beliefs vary in a number of ways, there is a consensus about the origin and existence of humanity. The Superman myth portrayed by the comical superhero appeals to me because while as a kid, I believed in its existence and, in my dreams, wished to meet him.
The Biblical Myth
According to the Bible, God created man after he had created the heavens and the earth. The book of Genesis takes us through the process that took God to create human beings and the world in general. We are later taken into the Garden of Eden where we are told that God placed Adam and Eve the supposed first human beings.
In the book of Genesis, we are told of the man who has to discover his origin and the origin of some fundamental elements of suffering and happiness as portrayed by the sinful nature of man and the potential redemption through salvation (New International Bible, Gen.2.1-2)
Like every other myth that has passed down through generations, the myth surrounding the origin of humankind in the Bible caries with it many inconsistencies. The order of creation in the Bible is broken and unexplained and uses unnatural means to achieve its goals. We are told, “Let there be light” ‘and there was light.”
The symbolic element of creating Adam and Eve as contrasted to declaring their being serves to demonstrated the innate significance of our existence as unique objects within the mythical realms. Therefore, through these representations, we come to appreciate the intrinsic importance of man in the universe. This draws from the elements of his creation as the last creature in order to watch over the rest of God’s creation.
The tales of the Bible try to explain common phenomenon, which remain unexplained in the contemporary world. According to Bible, the painfulness of child bearing is a punishment from God for defying his order not to eat from the fruit tree, which was at the centre of the Garden. One can conclude that this myth tries to explain why child bearing is so painful for women. However, in my view, it might seem unreasonable to justify the pains experienced by women due to sins committed by their ancestors.
To explain the conflict that exists between snakes and man, the Bible attributes this to God’s curse for man to toil in search for food. Man has never stopped seeking the explanations of metaphysical aspects such as death, beginning of life and many others. Humanity has always dreamt and remained committed of coming up with an answer through mythology and scientific discoveries and theory.
Renowned scientists like Charles Darwin have conducted numerous researches to explain and dispute the Bible’s theory of the origin of man. For instance, Charles Darwin concluded that man exists because of evolution process through change over a long period. Although this elementary theory may provide an insight into the question of origin, it may fail to offer best explanations surrounding the metaphysical world.
In trying to lend explanations to the origin of man, the most famous myths of the ancient Greek, myths of Oedipus, Odyssey, Zeus and many others may perhaps provide a substantial amount of light into the very question of existence. It is undisputed that myths form a very important part of our religions from Europe, Africa and all over the world.
Myths inform many aspects of our life, for example, many company names originate from Greek myths; very interesting though is the effect and influence that myths have on religions all over the world, for example, the Yoruba of Nigeria believe that their God originated from a reed.
Still in Africa, the Kikuyu, a tribe in Kenya, believed that their God came from mount Kirinyaga, which was his dwelling place. Explanations about the mythological formulations vary in approach and thought, thus serve to explain the conflicting nature of myths held by various traditions.
The Superman Myth. The comic character of Superman has come up as a strong mythological figure especially in the urban areas; it is common to hear kids saying, “That car is as fast as Superman.” to convince a seven year old kid that Superman does not exist may be a challenging task. It is attributed to numerous representation of the Superman through comic books and movies and in real life.
Siegel and Shuster created the first mythical characteristics of the Superman via images and symbols of rough and aggressive person renown for terrorizing criminals and gangsters especially in the 1920s.
No doubt exists in the fact that a similarity exist between the Bible, comic book hero, superman, and other myths.
Myth as a Metaphor
In most cases myths provide perfect metaphors for applicable in real life situations. For example, the mythical Garden of Eden acts as a representation of aspects of life. Although this contradicts the Biblical essence, critics have commented that the Garden of Eden represents sexuality in human beings where the human body is represented as holy just like the Garden of Eden.
However, Adam and his wife go against this order and eat the fruit meaning that they slept together. Today, the story in the Bible provides a metaphorical account of human life the story of Cain and Abel’s sibling rivalry symbolizes the conflict that exists among humans, between racism to tribalism, the rich and the poor and many other differences that exist nowadays. (Genesis, 4.1-10).
On its part, the mythical hero superman represents a conflict between the law-abiding citizens and the criminals in the society or a war between the right and wrong.
Although held in separate ways, my choice of my myths conforms to the universal conception of most cultures around the world in a number of respects.
American culture is the one that is technologically advanced as more and more people tend to believe in science, a good example are many Hollywood movies which have been created predicting the end of this world due to a calamity arising out of a scientific experiment or the future based on scientific discovery. A new religion based on a science fiction, and science on the rise. In my view, this religion bases its roots in the recent technological and scientific discoveries as evidenced by the abundant literature.
The American society is a highly religious society where freedom of religion freely thrives. It is for this reason that many religions have their home in America. However, the Christianity has the highest following and for this reason, most Americans identify themselves with the theoretical stories in the Bible set at the Garden of Eden.
This analysis has adopted the comparative mythology in which two different myths have been compared on a number of aspects. The analysis of the concept o mythology in both traditional and modern perspectives reveals the attachment between humanity and the world. The link that manages to connect the world phenomena that remain unchallenged is filled by the formulations of myths. The concept of myth has evolved since pre-historical and Biblical times and that these elements have penetrated the modern society.
Studies have shown that the tendencies of traditions to get back to their traditional form of thinking have been facilitated through the creation of myth. Different traditions have held that myths are significant in shaping human behavior through drawing near to the divine nature of the ancient moments.
As indicated by Campbell in his book the “Heroes Journey,” these myths follow the same pattern and form, thus form a platform for behavior change. Similarly, in the comic hero’s myths, superman lives in a perfect world in Krypton where he soon discovers that there are other Kryptonians living on the planet, when he comes to rescue them they are defeated and he is forced to remain on the earth where he experiences struggles but at the end, he triumphs.
The symbolic elements of myths remain instrumental in illustrating the meaning of some traditional and modern beliefs in order to inform their users. In demonstrating the essence of myths, the Superman serves as the critical example of how mythical components transform the mind and behavior through belief. Using this example, I have come to learn that characters and personality of most people are controlled by acceptance to subscribe to some particular myths.
Although a strong relationship exists between the traditional and modern conceptualizations of myths, these two groups of myths have vast differences and perhaps opposing features of each other. For instance, the 21st century mythical representations attempt to reject the 19th century mythical theories and science.
In this process of varying views, the modern mythology has developed a tendency to observe the traditional facets as obsolete and inconsequential to the development of the world’s ideologies. However, some studies document that different myths work in almost similar ways in order to achieve specific though different cultural and traditional goals. They argue that traditions are the regenerate functional subsets of the entire package of myths guiding the development of that given society.
Myths act to give meaning to life through transformations in modes of thinking toward the world into which our deities connect with the human beings. This element enables us to understand that the existence of things such as sufferings happen for a higher cause and reason.
Based on this significant element, the Biblical myth of the origin abd existence of man has enabled me to develop a general feeling that we are unique beings intended for better things in the world. This follows the punishments aspects of the Garden of Eden where our ancestors suffered because of their wickedness.
In addition, besides acting to inform our understanding, the two myths have offered themselves as lessons from which we model our behavior through taking the Superman and God as role models in our social and spiritual lives respectively. For instance, the Biblical story of the origin of man is perhaps the most upheld belief appealing to the universal conceptualization of humankind and its origin. Although religious dogmas and beliefs vary in a number of ways, there is a consensus about the origin and existence of humanity.
The Superman myth portrayed by the comical superhero appeals to me because while as a kid, I believed in its existence and, in my dreams, wished to meet him. On the other hand, myths have throughout history served to justify the cultural activities through the authoritative nature of mythical elements and characters. Man has never stopped seeking the explanations of metaphysical aspects such as death, beginning of life and many others.
Humanity has always dreamt and remained committed of coming up with an answer through mythology and scientific discoveries and theory. Through these aspects, myths attempt to establish events, customs, religious facets, laws, social and political structure, crafts and many recurring elements in the daily human life.
Myths represent the consensus of ideologies and cultural identity of varied traditions. There has been a general notion that some myths are outdated while others were current and able to address the phenomenal events happening in the world today. However, according to the evaluation of myths through a comparative study, analyses show that myths share some universal elements
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press,1949. Print.
Cousineau, Phil. The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work. Ed. Stuart L. Brown, New York: Harper and Row, 1990. Print.
Foley, Kevin D. African Oral Narrative Traditions: Teaching Oral Traditions. New York: Modern Language Association, 1998. Print.
New International Bible Version. London: Clays,1984. Print.
Rollo, May. The Cry For Myth. New York: Delta, 1992. Print.
Petrou, David M. The Making of Superman the Movie. New York: Warner Books,1978. Print.