Your modest task today is to team-up with one other person and develop a non-literal story about the origin of the universe.

Ask yourselves what such a story should try to do, what the point(s) of it should be. You can draw upon any imagery you like, but be sure to think about its aptness in conveying the messages of your myth.

It will be helpful to bear in mind the rich variety of purposes that mythic stories serve in the traditions that generate and preserve them. Ian Barbour and Rosemary Radford Ruether mention a number of ways in which myths make a difference in how people understand themselves and the world.

First, myths have "cosmological" significance; that is, they "express a vision of the basic structures of reality" (MMP, 20). They articulate a view about the fundamental powers that shape the world; they tell us how the world is ordered and what is going on within it. Stories about the beginning of the world provide a vivid way of doing this, and they may foster deeply held attitudes toward the natural world.

Second, myths have "anthropological" significance: that is, they tell us who we are and how we fit into the big picture. Myths often have something to say about how human beings, in particular, have come into existence. Stories of this kind can convey a powerful picture of the human predicament by identifying the major problems or difficulties we face, the source of these difficulties, and what we can and cannot do about them.

Third, myths have "behavioral" significance: that is, they reflect beliefs about how we ought to live. This follows from the first two functions of myth; in telling us where we are and who we are, myths shape what we do. Myths guide and reenforce an ethos, a way of life. In addition, myths are often closely tied to ritual practices that reenact aspects of the mythic story.

Fourth, myths have "sociological" significance: that is, they may serve as "blueprints for society" (G&G, p. 15). Myths often reflect assumptions about how society should be organized and about how power is derived and distributed.

Your myth doesn't have to do all these things; in fact, it will be easier to experiment with mythmaking if you focus on just one or two of the issues that myths classically have addressed. Can you develop a story that is in some respects "true to life" even though it is not historically or scientifically true?

Once you and your partner have jointly written a draft of your myth, we will convene as a group to compare our results.

Return to Caring for Creation .