I was watching the movie Zeitgeist tonight in which myth was defined as "something that is widely believed, but is actually false." Having proudly described myself as a "Purveyor of Myth" I took some offense to that definition. Actually, I stormed out of the room loudly articulating a few choice words. Myth by definition is not inherently false. On the contrary, I would go as far as to argue that myth is inherently true.
I think that many people have come to believe that something must be factual in order for it to be true. When I searched various dictionaries, I was appalled to see that fact and truth have almost identical definitions.
Fact: something known to exist or to have happened.
Truth: conformity with fact or reality
Well, being the daughter of a philosophy professor I just couldn't let that stand. Fact and truth are not synonymous. Let me pose an example of the difference between fact and truth, adding myth into the mix just to make things a little dicier.
A FACT: A mother is a female creature who has successfully produced or reared offspring.
Notice that a fact has no judgment of value or meaning. It is just cold, hard reality.
A TRUTH: A mother is a significant provisional and/or relational figure for every higher level creature born. The presence, absence and qualities of that relationship have impact at an individual, generational and societal level.
Notice that a truth concerns itself with meaning rather than occurrence. A fact tells what happens. A truth addresses the importance of what happens (or sometimes the lack of importance). Happenings mean something, if only because humans are makers of meaning.
Now comes myth, my personal favorite. Myth is the fleshing out of a truth into story. In that way, a truth can more easily be remembered, understood and incorporated into a society. A myth helps a truth take on global importance and meaning. For example:
A MYTH: The earth is humanity's mother. She is Gaia, the great mother who birthed all things and nourishes every creature. Without her, humankind cannot exist. Her presence, absence and qualities have and will impact the individual, future generations, and the global society.
A myth does not concern itself with fact or occurrence. It is not a fact that Gaia birthed us out. But it is true that the earth is our mother in a broader sense of meaning. Our relationship to the earth was pivotal to our inception and is pivotal to our survival in much the same way our mothers were.
Now, I would like you to go back and just read the FACT, the TRUTH and the MYTH above. Which do you find to be the most true, the most meaningful to you?
I hope you say the myth because that is what keeps me up nights writing. That is what I hope to purvey. Not lies, but truths so big that facts cannot contain them.