Every good epic has a killer back story, and current society loves a great origin story. And why not?! Some of the most popular movies and television series feature the genesis of our favorite super heroes. When we immerse ourselves into their stories, it’s almost as if there is a tangible connection that inspires us towards daring feats–that extra push to do more with our life than meets the eye. Because after all, at one point, even Spider Man was just Peter Parker, a nerdy school boy with a penchant for science and writing before his ill-fated run in with a radioactive spider. It stands to reason that our own origin story could use a twist of fate as well.
Origin stories are interesting things because they serve a powerful purpose–to anchor us to a framework and a set of rules from which to live one’s life.
There’s that word again, “framework”. It’s an important word because it provides us with a way to order the chaos around us.
So let’s take our two ideas–origin stories and frameworks–and let’s get to the point. And more importantly, how can an understanding of these two concepts help strengthen our relationships with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
Etiology is the study of causation and origination. Or, in other words, an in depth look into the reasons why things are the way they are. It is commonly used in the medical field to determine the cause of disease, but other disciplines have adopted it as well to understand the causes of various phenomena. And so we find an application to our topic of origin myths.
In the distant past, myths arose to help individuals and social groups understand why unexplained physical phenomena occurred. Not only did myths serve to pass along information and explain nature, but these stories also served to orient humans to the world around them, even the vast expanse of the universe that the eye could see, but the brain could not comprehend. Without access to the same technology that we have today, it is easy to see how important an origin story could be to the idea of ordering chaos, or just explaining every day life.
In fact, creation myths are also referred to as cosmogonic myths and serve to describe how the cosmos was ordered from a state of chaos into the physical world that we now see. They also go further than that by offering a symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it. Every creation story shares similar traits as well:
- sacred in nature
- describe one’s relationship to Deity
- stories with a plot and character
- set in the dim distant past
- address questions deeply meaningful to that society
- reveal a central worldview
- reveal a framework of self-identity of culture and the individual in the universal context
I think we have hit on something very important here with this list of common traits. The goal of this blog is to bring an easier understanding of self and our relationship with God and Jesus Christ so that we can really harness the gospel in our life. I believe that this list offers some useful information for the starting point of that journey.
How do we view God and Jesus Christ in general? Are they just beings that oversee the events that take place on earth in omnipotent fashion? Do we care if they care? Do we even believe in a God like figure? Or do we consider God as our Father in Heaven, and Jesus Christ as our benevolent and loving brother that left his throne to come to earth and lead the way back to our Father in Heaven?
How you answer that question determines your current relationship with deity.
How you wish you answered that question determines the type of relationship with deity that you hope to have.
As well, how you answer that question determines the value you place on sticking to a framework that offers a relatable origin story, or cosmogonic myth.
And guess what?!
There is no wrong or right answer to these questions.
The only answer that matters is the one that determines what kind of life you want to live in this moment, and in the future.
A creation myth provides you with the framework to order your current and future life. Forget about the past and what ever foibles you’ve participated in, those don’t matter. This is the day you begin your own journey.
In the sense of spiritual belief, a creation myth offers you a starting point for a relationship with deity. It offers you an understanding of how your earthly life is valued in what comes after our mortal body passes on. Creation myths can even offer a better understanding of how your life mattered before your earthly life began. Creation myths offer us a more eternal perspective of how human life factors into the overall story of the universe. They also provide us with basic patterns for life and culture.
How we feel about our spiritual creation myth matters. When we are honest with ourselves about our relationship with deity, we begin to reveal our true priorities and our real prejudices. And honesty is such an integral part of this processes because we cannot improve if we do not lay ourselves bare. Do we want to strengthen our priorities and work out our prejudices? Do we want our life to have meaning beyond the material things we hang on our bodies and outfit our homes in? I think we can find meaning in material things, but only as far as they connect to the significance we place on our personal values and priorities.
As I said before, a creation myth is something of a scalable model. We can use it to orient any aspect of our life from individual goal setting, to our personal standards in the work force, to how we treat others around us everyday. Governments and societies operate with a code of rules that is founded in some sort of creation myth as well–you could call it a motto, a mission statement, or a constitution.
And we need only look to history to determine the value a creation myth carries with it. There is strength in valuing a framework. Great buildings like the pyramids, or monuments like Stonehenge, or the American Constitution didn’t just occur randomly, they were the direct result of a set of beliefs. Those that held those beliefs dear made a concerted effort to create a tangible record of those beliefs that would serve to order human behavior across time and space.
Losing sight of those beliefs and their origin, I feel, is dangerous.
I have always wondered why great religious leaders have directed their followers to read scriptures daily and to write them on their hearts. I think the answer lies in this idea. By immersing ourselves in our chosen creation myth daily, we remind ourselves of:
- where we came from
- who we came from
- who we are
- why we are here
- what we are supposed to do here
- where we want to go
- we are offered suggestions of how we can order our chaos
- we are reminded again and again of who we should look to and rely on to overcome chaos when order seems to be lost
How many people question the meaning of life, and ponder endlessly over what happens after death? In our day, social media is rife with podcasts, youtube channels, facebook groups, television series, movies, etc., that explore the meaning of life and death–and even life after death with a zombie-like twist. If the entertainment industry is any reflection of where people place their values, figuring out the answer to those questions is just as valid today as it was in the distant past. The difference might be that with all the technology and leaps in scientific discovery, perhaps we have moved away from a focus on deity as an explanation for the unexplainable. We see no problem distending belief when we discover that Peter Parker becomes the wily Spider-man after he is bitten by a radioactive spider, but believing in and trusting that there is a loving God in our own personal life might be too great of a stretch.
We allow Peter Parker a new twist of fate, but have a hard time believing the same for ourselves.
Adopting a creation myth for ourselves can do that, it can offer a new twist of fate for ourselves.
In the past, cultural groups engineered elaborate burial tombs and grave rituals that expressed the belief in some sort of creation myth. We know that the value they placed on these beliefs was high because of what we find inside. When resources were scarce and access to luxury goods was next to impossible, archaeologists uncover again and again vast troves of wealth that boggles even our minds today. The man power alone that went into designing and building such tombs is staggering when considering it was all done by hand. When people place a high priority on what they value, however, they are willing to go to great lengths to secure the desired outcome.
So, here we are, back to the point–how can a creation myth strengthen our relationship with God and Jesus Christ?
I offer you some questions to ponder, because the answer to this question lies inside of yourself:
- What do you know of your faith’s creation myth?
- How does that creation myth make you feel?
- What does your creation myth offer to you as an individual?
- Do you have enough faith to believe deeply that what your creation myth offers is worth struggle and refinement?
- What are you willing to do– to sacrifice– to ensure that your life aligns with your creation myth?
- Does your creation myth offer you a meaningful relationship with Deity?
Next week, I hope to take apart the creation myth that I grew up with and answer a few of these questions. I also hope to focus on how the creation myth I have chosen for myself has helped me through some of the challenges I have faced in my own life. Up until now I have been talking in general, but I promise to put a more personal spin on the next installment.