How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster #1

"What we mean in speaking of “myth” in general is story, the ability of story to explain ourselves to ourselves in ways that physics, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry—all very highly useful and informative in their own right—can’t."

Myths are fascinating, at least when taken as a whole. Myths from an individual culture can be intriguing, entertaining and informative. But when the whole of mythology is taken into consideration it reveals so much about humanity and what we have in common.

The idea that so many cultures have so many mythical elements in common is incredible.

When I was in college I took a class about Mythology. There was something else attached to it "comparative" or "literature" or something. I can't remember what it was but the point is, this was my first formal study in mythology.

It was illuminating. In the first class the professor passed a sheet of paper around the class asking us to write our names and the religion we are most familiar with.

Nearly half of those who had the paper before me wrote buddhism. I was surprised. I'd graduated high school only going to Adventist schools and mostly been surrounded by Christians.

Later in the class the professor was talking about how religions are considered part of mythology. She addressed how contentious this can be and later said, "You have your religion and everyone else has their myths." The struck me as rather accurate.

It was startling to be in a classroom where Christianity was put on the same playing field as all other religions of today and the past. There wasn't any condemnation of one religion or the other, they were all treated as equally neutral and we picked them apart (as much as can be done in a once a week class) for their similarities across culture and era and for common elements.

It was fun. I got over any uncomfortableness pretty quickly.

Now I'm more curious about why so many religions and cultures have so many stories with such similar elements. Floods, virgin births, death and resurrection.

Could there only be one set of original stories and everything else is a constant retelling of those? What a cool book that would be.

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