Sunday, March 15, 2009


“Science is humanity’s map and myth is its compass,” somebody said*. What could that mean?

Is it that our ever-growing, ever more inclusive science, our only 400-year-old method of knowing the phenomenal world so thoroughly and extensively, both in fact and in principle, has mapped out a model of reality that is increasingly accurate and reliable—but that this kind of knowledge is not enough for us?

And is it also that in order to know how to orient ourselves on this map, how to go about in this world of our scientific comprehension, requires another kind of device? We need not only knowledge but meaning.

Though we can make rational sense of what our senses and instruments perceive, we need another way of knowing in order to know our way, and that way is wisdom, the way of value and worth, the compass to tell us more than what is, but also what is good—and this is the business of myth.

The myths we live by orient and direct us through the sensible reality of our worldly experience by making sense of our senses, giving purpose and direction to our choices.

Now, the pragmythic question: which myths work best?

*Arthur M. Young, The Reflexive Universe (New York: Delacourte, 1976)