The human condition is unalterable. Unless mankind in its totality is profoundly altered by some artificial or supernatural means, the fundamentals; his motivations, instincts and behaviours will remain set. There is no linear line of progress and there is no ‘right side of history’. Civilisations can only ever progress to a peak point of stability and material prosperity. In order to survive any great test of time, efforts must be made to preserve the foundations, limitations must be placed on further developments, and unnecessary experimental alterations must be avoided. As with any important piece of architecture, structural integrity, stability and longevity should be treated as paramount. If not, boundlessness will give way to ruin, paradise is lost, and the once lofty civilisation will plunge itself back into the primordial swamp from which it sprung. Unfortunately, a conservative attitude is no guarantee of a continued existence. Civilisation is the product of exceptional individuals, and exceptional individuals are rather few and far between.
As man is neither perfect or indestructible by design, a perfect or indestructible man-made system or civilisation is not possible. A stable and orderly system, built upon man’s immutable nature and functioning in accordance with it, is.
- The Hero’s Journey (aka The Monomyth), as outlined by Joseph Campbell
Culture may be described as a product of both logos and mythos, with both modes of interpretation and understanding working in synthesis, or with one as a product of the other. Artists, musicians, poets, philosophers, theologians, political theorists, statesmen and others rely on the tools of logos in order to create their own works of mythos. While some my favour and utilise one to a greater degree than the other, the realm of culture is a playground of both the concrete and the abstract, the rational and the intuitive. The academic study of mythology itself may be best understood as the application of logos to the products of mythos. This is nicely illustrated by the term’s etymology.
A theme of particular prominence and endurance in the mythological canon is that or the hero and his journey. The hero, upon hearing the call to action, typically embarks upon a dangerous journey into the unknown. Often, this journey is a descent. Often, as with Psyche, Horus and Christ, it is a descent to the very bottom of the pit, down to Hades, the Egyptian underworld, to Hell. Christ shares common themes in the unlikely form of Dionysus, who, like Shiva and many other deities, exemplifies the long tradition of the dying-and-rising God of life-death-rebirth. The hero who returns from the underworld expresses a number of eschatological themes, with the cyclical nature of time and existence being one of the most prominent.
“In imitating the exemplary acts of a god or of a mythic hero, or simply by recounting their adventures, the man of an archaic society detaches himself from profane time and magically re-enters the Great Time, the sacred time.” – Mircea Eliade
By virtue of being alive, I feel obligated to those who have made my material existence possible in the first place. This sense of obligation and responsibility does not stop short of my immediate family but extends to every sage, warrior, and innovator who have fought to preserve my people and the land I live on.
For those of us fortunate enough to have grown-up with some semblance of parental involvement and guidance, most of what struck us as unfair at the age of six probably make perfect sense to us as reasonably mature adults. We understand that the limitations placed upon us were, for the most part, entirely for our own benefit. Boundaries kept us safe from harm, behavioural expectations ensured that we were fit for society, rules and regulations provided us with a sense of security and stability, and denial made us all the more appreciative of any privileges we did receive. As the years went by, parental authority softened and we were afforded more and more of our little freedoms; freedom to choose, freedom to decide, and freedom to accept this or reject that. Of course, these newly granted liberties turned out to be conditional. ‘With freedom comes responsibility’, as the saying goes. Without self-restraint, self-denial and the ability to self-limit, freedom gives way to chaos, therefore freedom is absolutely out of the question. And so our parents guide, nurture and provide for us as children, while our duty to them is to stand as the fruits of that labour, provide them grandchildren, and to offer them care in their old age. It is through a sense of responsibility and obligation that we ensure that life consistently improves for each successive generation. Families, and by extension, communities, nations and empires are built and sustained through self-sacrifice, not self-indulgence. As soon as the individual is elevated above the community that birthed and sustained him, that community starts to decay.