Forever and Never
In the early 1960’s Jay Lerner, a classmate at Harvard of President John F Kennedy composed music for a musical based upon the Arthurian legends which we discussed yesterday. Entitled “Camelot”, the Broadway musical was hit by all stanards. The songs, however, were even more popular. President Kennedy was said to be particularly fond of the concluding couplet lyric of the title song”: “Don’t ever let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was Camelot.”
President Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy reportedly once said, was strongly attracted to the Camelot legend because he was an idealist who saw history as something made by heroes like King Arthur. After his assassination, a reporter wrote the Jacqueline Kennedy remarked: “There will be great presidents again,” she told White, “but there will never be another Camelot.” In this way, stated the reporter, Mrs. Kennedy sought to attach a morally uplifting message to one of the more ugly events in American history. Later reports dispute whether or not the quotes were ever said since the Kennedy family was very religious and believing in myths would seem at odds with their faith.
Similar contradictions might seem obvious throughout the history of mythologies. For those who believe, they were the basis for belief syst3ems. For those who did not believe, they were mere stories. As works of literature, the mythologies of mankind provided entertainment and engaged the audiences, regardless of location or period of history. As creation stories, they provided explanations for the beginnings of the world and mankind.
In the world of today where science and religion often battle, mythology bridged the gap between the two. Myths illustrated concepts of morality, the very same concepts upon which most religions are based. They also answered one of mankind’s most consistent questions: Why do bad things happen? The occurrences in the natural world of such things like rain and lightning were explained as actions or responses of the gods and goddesses. If Zeus was mad, he struck the earth which caused lightning. If a goddess was saddened, he tears fell upon the planet as tears.
There is an old African saying: “God made man, because he liked to hear a story.” Whether they are telling the beginning of man or the reason for a part of nature, the myths told explained the experience of being alive. They served and continue to serve a profound purpose for us today. They illustrate our history and perhaps our future. What will be the story you write today?