This morning my sons asked Alexa to play a rap song called “Let it Lie” by Common. (Side note: Common is almost as handsome as my husband. It’s true. He’s my second choice.) The song is from the movie Smallfoot, about a Yeti named Migo who discovers a human being - something his community wanted the youth to believe did not exist except in legend. Only the leader, the Stonekeeper, presumably knows the goings on of the humans and worked hard to keep the myths “etched in stone.” If any Yeti discovers the truth about them, they risk banishment from their tribe. The movie is essentially about questioning authority, the things that “have always been done this way.” My kids were giggling as they recounted the Yeti’s belief that the sun rises due to ringing a gong with one’s head, and the sun itself is a giant glowing snail that travels across the sky. Like indigenous myths about the Cosmic Turtle, they believe their mountains sit on the backs of wooly mammoths with who knows what beneath them. Another flat plane of land? Listening to the lyrics I was particularly struck by these, which flow like a dialogue between Migo and the Stonekeeper:
[Stonekeeper] The only thing stronger than fear is curiosity
(Now you know, now you know, now you know)
[Migo] Wait so, so none of those stones are true, they’re all lies?
(Now you know, now you know, let it lie)
[Stonekeeper] Good lies to protect our world
(Now you know, now you know, now you know)
[Migo] But they need to know the truth…
This last line fosters a kind of rant from the Stonekeeper about how important it is to protect the flow of information to prevent the Yeti’s annihilation. The magnificent brazenness of youth, of course, does not accept this answer. My parents will tell you that while I did not outright break rules or laws as a kid, I was stubborn and went my own way often. Phil, my dad, kind of chuckles at this now. I’d like to think he’s secretly proud of passing that trait down to me. With an award I received once, my boss presented it to me with the words, “Holly does not accept the answer ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” I got an award, so again, I’d like to think this can be a valuable trait!
Anyhow, what I’ve recently been contemplating is how we see. It might be worthier to contemplate what we need to UNsee.
I find myths beautiful and poetic illustrations of humans trying to grope at our origins and meaning. Maybe the universe will reveal things to us in the future that render our current understanding of the Big Bang “mythical.” This, I think, is exactly why we need to keep evolving how we see - to dive deeper into mystery, which to me, renders our lives that much more exquisite.
In philosophy and religion there is an eons long conversation about what emerged first: God or creation. Was there a mind-like spirit at work in order for things to be? Or did that spirit co-evolve as everything else did? It is hard to look at the elegant patterning of a butterfly and not see artistry and intention. How creatures have evolved in their particular unique ways is puzzling to behold. It is mystical to experience all that is as one with the breath of God. Certainly Buddhist notions of interbeing point at that oneness, though there is no personal god in Buddhism - there is only consciousness unfolding and evolving. (If you are curious, look up the differences between Monism, Theism, Pantheism, and Panentheism. If we are not atheist, most of us fall into one of those categories of belief.) I don’t know if it’s important to me to be certain of the “truth” about God, but as my sight evolves, I can’t unsee the interconnectedness of all that is. Humans are not made of special human elements. We are made of the same stuff as mountains, bugs, and elephants. We only possess different forms, and not insignificant, we possess symbolic consciousness - a way to understand and represent this interconnectedness on a grand scale. To my knowledge, a mountain cannot paint itself, but its majesty can reveal itself through us as we try to paint it. I think this is the new story we need, one that points at universal interbeing and evolution but has tolerance for the creative use of myths and ritual to illustrate and embody it. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “When we free ourselves from signs, we can enter the heart of reality. But until we can see the ocean in the sky, we are still caught by signs.” Curiosity is indeed stronger than fear, so which will we choose to guide us?