Myth of Misery – In Honor of Paris
It is an interesting question. Is every story a myth? The answer is no. Only those stories worth hearing over and over become the mythology that mankind preserves. Those stories are the ones with reason, the stories that teach us, that improve our living.
When we first began this series, these stories we’ve explored during the season of Pentecost, we defined the word “myth”. We talked about how it means story but more recently has come to mean falsehood. Actually the word means a traditional story. The history of the word goes back to the ancient Greek “mythos” which literally meant a story told by mouth. In the “Dictionary of English Folklore”, Simpson and Roud described myths as “stories about divine beings, generally arranged in a coherent system; they are revered as true and sacred; they are endorsed by rulers and priests; and closely linked to religion. Once this link is broken, and the actors in the story are not regarded as gods but as human heroes, giants or fairies, it is no longer a myth but a folktale. Where the central actor is divine but the story is trivial … the result is religious legend, not myth.”
All too often those stories that seemed to have no basis in science became known as untruths, hence the definition of a myth being a falsehood. In the past three hundred years, archaeology, the science of discovering historical truths, has backed up some of those stories. What once seemed too fantastical to be real now has been proven to be true.
There have always been those who misappropriate the truths of existence for themselves. Their stories have taken mythology and turned it into ravings of lunatics. The search for a perfect race, for instance, takes ancient stories and used them to justify the killing of millions.
Yesterday another group tried to live out such a mythology of misery. The serenity of Paris as Parisians and tourists went about living and celebrating life was shattered. Far too many died. “Did you see them lying where they died? Someone used to cradle them and kiss them when they cried.”
Life comes with challenges but the challenge of yesterday for those in Paris was uncalled for; it had no purpose. History is full of instance where someone used others to inflict pain – not for a noble cause but for greed. Until the generals calling the plays put themselves on the front lines and risk their lives, we should question their motives. They risk nothing while others risk everything. It is a falsehood to believe that by inflicting pain on another, a person will rise above all of mankind. There is no culture that has profited from such actions.
“At the end of the day there’s another day dawning and the sun in the morning is waiting to rise; like the waves crash on the sand, Like a storm that’ll break any second, there’s a hunger in the land, there’s a reckoning still to be reckoned and there’s gonna be hell to pay.” Today the sun will rise on the city of Lights. The air will be thick with grief and the memories of those who died will cloud the vision of those who lived them. The fear will hang over the city and yet, life will go on. As one of the oldest and most valiant of European cultures, Parisians will persevere and once again rise above the tragedy.
Today, we offer to Paris our love and our support. I hope that “every day you walk with stronger step; you walk with longer step. The worst is over.” The actions of the cowardly terrorists yesterday will ultimately accomplish nothing except to strengthen the resolve of good people. Misery never is the final victor. “God on high; hear my prayer. In my need, you have always been there.”
Prayers for Paris are in my heart today. The light will again shine forth in the beautiful City of Lights. Evil will not be victorious as long as mankind believes in the mythologies of goodness and peace.
[Quotes not given attribution are from lyrics of songs from “Les Misérables”, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, original French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, with an English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer.]