"Fairy tales since the beginning of recorded time, and perhaps earlier, have been “a means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor." - Jack Zipes
Mythologist Joseph Campbell said that if you really want to help people, teach them how to live in the world. Whether is is Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammad and other religious figures and leaders, they knew the power of stories and parables to guide us toward an inner life where peace and enlightenment reside.
Karen Armstrong in her book A Short History of Myth, says, “It is only in participating in this divine life that mortal, frail human beings fulfill their potential. Myths give shape and form to a reality that people sensed intuitively. They told them how the Gods behaved, not out of curiosity or because these tales were entertaining, but to enable men and women to imagine these powerful beings and experience divinity themselves.”
Storytelling and its rich imagery and wisdom inherent in stories speak to kids via the heart for them to experience directly, for stories instruct via the heart, not the intellect, which tends to lecture and get caught up in duality, for stories suspend time and space - yoga!
Kids experience for themselves in their own bodies and minds the faith, the journey and images which activate archetypes within. Campbell says, “All the gods and goddesses are within us.” So we are Vishnu, dreaming our own world into existence. We are Jesus, working to serve the poor and teach the children, we are the Great Spirit of Native America, living in harmony and order with the Earth.
This inner life, the psyche, body and archetypical imagination, speaks through images. The soul speaks in an image, says Aristotle, and these images are somatically instinctual, intuitive and symbolic in their language. For we do not live by our intellectual function alone, as Albert Einstein warned, because imagination is more important than knowledge, he said.
Modern society has has neglected the feeling and intuitive functions of the psyche, creating an imbalance between our mental and physical realms. These spiritual stories of faith and testimony to battling life’s challenges and how to survive the reality and meaninglessness of death answer the inner call to feed a starving psyche, the Greek word for soul. The expressive arts, such as storytelling, dance, art and music, serve this well and help heal a wounded world that is crying for myth.
Vicarious participation of heroic journeys by characters via listening to stories give us resources to file away when needed in life. They lead us to faith in ourselves and restore our natural states of joy and faith in the goodness of the world despite all the overwhelming tragedy and abandonment it may serve up. They help us survive, and assuage the fear of death, Armstrong says.
These stories help us find faith, regardless of religious ideology, to guide us how to alleviate suffering, dismantle upset and anger non-violently, and confront death and other realities of our own lives. They also teach us to find our common humanity in them for us to live joyfully and make peace with ourselves as well as others in the world.
When we hear stories, we relate to common images and actions that mirror our own lives. Over time mental barriers drop via the deep listening and attention. We connect to the ways in which people solve problems in relationship with others and realize that others have the same hopes and fears as we do, have the same bones, organs and hearts as we do. We want good things for ourselves and families. We are similar and can relate better because of stories. And what better place to have a discussion by using mythology as a starting point to share these great interfaith stories with each other and children to teach peace, health and literacy!
Peace on Earth. Good Will Toward All People.
Tell stories and teach yoga to children.