Throughout their childhood, children are told told stories about their culture and religion. Sometimes these come in the form of bedtime stories read to them from beloved books; other times the are stories passed down from generation to generation. Some of these stories are just folktales, but some are myths that can impact both the child and society as a whole. In “The Power of Myth,” Moyers and Campbell discuss how myths can be found in the world today and how to distinguish them. The pair discuss religion, books, movies, people, marriage and much more; they shed light on how myths influence today’s society and explain how the impact sometimes goes unnoticed. Campbell and Moyers discuss what a myth is, what qualifies it as a myth, and why myths are important.
A myth can be many things, but essentially it is the collection of stories that allow people to see things from a different perspective, to connect on a deeper level and to attempt to grasp a deeper concept. Although myths can be goals that people want to achieve, they are different than dreams that a person has when they sleep. They are the dreams of society; they are the goals of the everyday person. While dreams are the personal objectives of each person, myths are the common achievement society shares. Myths can come in the form of children’s stories, religion, and celebrities. “Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life” (Campbell and Moyers 5). These spiritual possibilities are inside everyone; they are what guides society through life experiences. Myths are spiritual instructions that tend to be broader ideas or goals used to teach society about themselves and their inner beings. These broad ideas are archetypes which are the common core throughout all myths. Everyone is born with the same set of archetypes, which explains why different cultures have myths that are very similar. One such example is the myths found in some religions. In chapter two, Moyers and Campbell use passages from the Bible and can find passages or songs from other cultures and religion that are very similar. Moyers quotes Genesis 1 in the Bible when he says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Campbell then relates this quote with a song from a legend of the Pima Indians of Arizona: “In the beginning there was only darkness everywhere-darkness and water”(51). Not only does Campbell connect myths from other religions together but, in chapter six, he also connects myths in religion to myths in Greek Mythology. Campbell comments that the only myth worth thinking about is the one about the planet (41). What Campbell means is the only myth society needs to listen to is the one that applies to everyone. He wants local myths to make a jump to apply to everyone, which then makes them become myths of the planet.
An essential qualification of a myth is that it has something with a deeper meaning or a grander theme. A myth has vivid symbolism, narrative, and images that have an intense analogy to which society as a whole can connect. In chapter five of The Power of Myth, Campbell talks about why a hero’s journey is so critical to the myth both spiritually and physically. In every action book or movie, the hero goes on a journey. He is fighting a crime, solving a mystery, embarking on a quest; that is the physical aspect of the myth. There is the basic storyline that the hero catches the bad guy and all is good in the world again. Yet below that surface message, there is a lesson of strength, perseverance, and fortitude. The hero finds what defines them and fulfills their inner purpose; that is the spiritual side of the story. That underlying theme or message is essential to a myth; it must. teach an important life lesson that can help society find their inner motive or passion. In addition, a myth must include all of society, not just a concentrated group. That inclusion is also key part of what elevates a story to a myth rather than a rendering it only a dream, folktale, or metaphor.
Myths are an important to have in everyone’s life because of the lessons they can teach a person. For example, in The Power of Myth, there was a chapter that talked about marriage and how myths can lead to helping the relationship be successful. Marriage is more than the union of two people; it is the merge of two souls as they become one. It is an important and sacred bond between two people; however, during the last several decades divorce rates have grown dramatically in the United States. Campbell and Moyers discuss how implementing myths into a child’s mind at a young age can help more marriages last. Campbell states that exposing children to myths encourages them to be more compassionate people who are better in touch with their feelings and who are more likely to work through a problem rather than to give up on it. Myths teach the value of sacrifice and that value can be implemented into a relationship. A person does not make sacrifices benefitting just one person in the relationship; the sacrifice is made for the relationship as a whole. Decisions are made for the betterment of the marriage, not just the husband or the wife. Myths are also important as a means of expanding the minds of people. Campbell advises reading myths from other cultures and religions to open the minds of society to different perspectives. By reading the myths of other cultures and religions, people are able to compare them to their own familiar myths and find parallel themes. In a time when there is so much cultural division, finding those parallel themes helps unite society through their shared values.
In The Power of Myth, Campbell and Moyer lay the foundation for why myths are more than just tales of the past. Myths connect values of the past with timeless needs of society as a whole. Older generations pass down these myths to the youngest ones in society through bedtime stories and oral traditions.These myths are woven into the very fiber of society. For those unfamiliar with myths, Campbell and Moyer illustrate what a myth is, define what qualifies as a myth, and elaborate on why myths continue to be of importance to society.