Being Claimed by a Myth with Martin Shaw, Ph.D.

Martin ShawFolktales, fairytales, and myths are the way our ancestors tried to tell truth and actually have the earth speaking through them. Shaw says that they are more than just human intelligence at play. Here he takes us on a deep dive into the importance of inviting story into our lives, not as therapy, not as giving advice. He tells us that these timeless stories can be the tributaries that lead us to the bigger river of essential truths that nourish our lives. He challenges us to show “fidelity” to the myth that grabs us, “There is a prudence in absorbing and telling stories because you feed the story. If you are perennially in devouring mode: gimme, gimme, gimme … the stories tend to charge through us rather than negotiate with us… Myths generally ask more of us than we want to give so you have to say, ‘Okay, what do you want from me?’ … stories are demanding a kind of psychic and emotional sophistication from us.” Shaw feels that myths, (in the plural) live us. Two or three of them can arrive within the course of a day wanting different things from us. He warns that we’ve become culturally dulled to the mythic now and we may be “fake news from our own psyche.” As an antidote to that he advises, “Learn a poem by heart because it’ll die of cold on the page. Learn a story by heart. Learn to use a word you just learned. Learn the bones of the thing. It doesn’t need to be a recital; it needs to be a telling because then the story itself as a living being, is alive and the story is getting fed by your telling.” Shaw will turn your heart over to see our lives through a fresh perspective. He talks of how the book The Night Wages is a conversation to his young daughter to, hopefully, read and understand when she is older. It tells the story of what her dad loved, what he defended, and what he cared about, lost, and gained. He says, “It’s a love letter to the thing that I love most in the world, which is my daughter.” And it translates to the human dilemma of love, sorrow, gain, and loss for us all and what it means to be human and still survive.

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