All life is mythological is the statement Tom McMahon uses today to grab our attention. The world seems increasingly divided into fundamentalists who want to take the mystery out of the mythological and replace it with dogmatic and liturgical certitudes and those who are increasingly attracted to the excitement of immersing themselves in the Mystery. Tom's reflection today is essentially an investigation of this dichotomy and why society is in this fix. This is Tom McMahon's 200th commentary for Catholica. Congratulations and thanks from all of us to you, Tom!
All life is mythological...
ME THINKS THAT THE GOLDEN SLIPPER OF EDUCATION IS NOW ON A DIFFERENT FOOT ... if one wants to appreciate chaos one is best to know some mythology ... All life is mythological.
I was 12 years old when bombs fell on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Tension filled San Francisco and a threat of invasion gripped Australia. I would grow up realizing that stress was a major part of everyday living, not only in my home and home town but like a multi-headed Medusa, war and petulance would encircle the globe. From a 1930's isolation I would watch and participate in a people's struggle for human freedom and security as once separate units of society became the Global Village and emphasis would be placed on the dignity and rights of the human person. Many die to make people free, one model being the death of Jesus. There would be many Medusas who would exploit the human race as well as Perseus like figures, fighting evil and battling wicked powers. All life is a mystery stage upon which the characters of good and evil wage their endless struggle. The early meaning of the word mystery was "something to be investigated".
Throughout the Great Depression and subsequent years of World War Two religion and church enjoyed a sacred place, immune to scrutiny as desperate people turned to a powerful Sky-God to protect them from harm and evil. In our new age of enlightenment (i.e. education of the ordinary people) the curtain has been pulled and religions and church are now seen as major role players on the stage of everyday life under careful observation by truth seekers. The Roman priest once held as untouchable, pure and spotless, is now viewed as part of the human species. We'll soon take up this myth of the Green Knight and his sexuality. For the time being let's say he is not the jolly green veggie one.
Perseus (Greek: Περσεύς), the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Danaans there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians. Perseus was the Greek hero who killed the Gorgon Medusa, and claimed Andromeda, having rescued her from a sea monster sent by Poseidon in retribution for Queen Cassiopeia declaring herself more beautiful than the sea nymphs.
Tom here is not out to canonize Perseus. I wonder how many people of Perth, Australia are aware that the name of their city means "killer" and may come from ancient Persia, a very complicated pre-Greek Son of Zeus who as an infant is cast into the sea in a wooden chest to emerge a saviour hero who kills the Gorgon. It doesn't take much to see the comparison to the biblical story of Moses floating on the Nile and eventually becoming the killer-hero of one of Pharaoh's evil men and the saviour of Israel. All life's experiences are told in stories of heroes and villains. We could name ten million but for the sake of brevity lets settle on Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John the 23rd, Archbishop Oscar Romero and Bishop Bill Morris on the hero side and Hitler, Stalin, Ratzinger, Pell and the Australian bishops (cf. Eric Hodgens' commentary, Episcopal Trust, 29Nov2011 LINK) on the villain side. Hodgens' tells of the sacrificial lamb, an archetypal ancient myth story found in the 27th chapter of Matthew's gospel as the temple priests offer up Jesus as the sacrificial lamb to appease the Roman gods of power.
Is the Pell DOMUS the big house that established the pharaohs of Egypt in power? The very word pharaoh means big house. Who will be the Perseus that cuts off the modern Medusa's head? Who are the modern Medusa and the modern Perseus? (At this turn of events perhaps only the Shadow knows Stayed tuned!) Remember what the English philosopher Burke said about good men standing around in the face of evil and doing nothing.
Now back to the questions from last week. I closed with two questions...
I would enjoy reading your answers on the Catholica Forum. Here I offer my own thinking — three response altogether: one polite, the other rather harsh, and a third realizing how poorly the people have been treated.
The Polite Version...
The clergy themselves devoid of updated education has kept a mysterious power over people by refusing to be involved in scientific study. What priests learned in seminary in days when the atom was not yet understood is sufficient. Holed up in their comfortable rectories and far distant from the realities of life many clergymen have coasted on their laurels of ordination, abandoning their role as teachers. Many priests have made it through the gauntlet of the seminary never to open another serious educational book.
In general the people have gone along with "father knows it all" and are complacent, figuring that they learned as first graders the package Catholic deal of sin and hell during their preparation for first communion, enough to get them into heaven. One Irish priest twenty years ago spoke of educating the people in the following manner. "We treat the people the same way we grow our spuds; we bury them deep in darkness and cover them with manure."
The Impolite Version...
Both clergy and laity are lazy, considering education as a waste of time. I am reminded of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind: "personally, Scarlet, I just don't give a damn."
The Third Version...
This is the age of the laity who in their innocence have been given short shift by the clergy. This model is fast-changing as intelligent individuals break from the old European way of education, each person taking personal responsibility to read, dialogue, and convert to an updated understanding of Jesus and religion. We will offer more on this next week as taken from The Santa Clara University EXPLORE program and their recent endeavors at sound adult education. Today we are experiencing a fascinating period of growth and we need accept that time and energy is on the side of spiritual maturity.
Wise and courageous churchmen saw the horror of World Wars One and Two and the terrible collapse of the old European-governed, Roman institution They gave us the guidelines of Vatican Two. The Vatican has become impotent as a modern teacher. A strong voice of the people is being heard around the globe for a return to Jesus and his way of life. The missing Cinderella shoe of education is being tried on the lay person's foot. ME THINKS THAT THE SHOE HAS BEEN TOO LONG ON THE WRONG FOOT ... The charming prince Jesus is trying the Cinderella shoe on the female!
The first sign of a dysfunctional religion is the collapse of its priesthood, a phenomenon that has been happening since 1965. Jesus never started a religion nor did he ordain a priest; Jesus did send ordinary people as his disciples (disciplined in the way of Jesus) into the world with his message of love and forgiveness. Jesus asked humans to convert to peace and justice. There is a great renewal of a Jesus service priesthood among those who take seriously their baptismal commitment.
There are two basic questions today:
God is unconditional love and Jesus the Creator's master teacher. Take a look around and see the unconditional love that is offered in creation. We waste our time trying to appease a God who needs nothing from us. We show out gratitude by honorably using and protecting the Creator's gifts.
Tom McMahon, in San Jose, Ca.. See ya next week after I do some study of the Universe. 06Dec2011
What are your thoughts on this commentary?