Look up now: the redemptive forces of the world of myths

What is it that makes people move? This is an urgent question, especially since our Mother Earth is collapsing under our feet. The world of myths offers an unexpected view. The Spanish Researcher and social scientist Grian Cutanda shows how in ‘The Earth Stories Collection’. Enjoy his breathtaking journey and you will never be the same. Here the review.

The worldwide actions of climate activists are more than media-genic.Whether they are blocking traffic on highways, gluing themselves on tables of talk-shows or soup-showering the glass behind which the most gorgeous paintings, invariably they attract attention. At times people receiving the media-images – what an insult on Van Gogh! – or otherwise frustrated in their stranded cars are outraged by the actions disrupting everyday routine. Yet, however disturbing the images of the actions, to me it seems, call it naively or downright hopeful, that the sole goal of these activists is to awaken awareness in their fellowmen. Awareness that Mother Earth is deeply in pain expressing her agony in devastating storms, tremendous floodings, unbearable heat, earthquakes torturing our imagination and an increasing loss of flora and fauna. You can perceive their actions as an outcry: ‘Look up now’, paraphrasing the film ‘Don’t look up’ (2021).

Sky high
This sky high ambition is to gather all of us together, reunited in a globally spanned human force to redeem Mother Earth from her suffering, as well as from our own suffering of fatalistic, cynical, calculated thinking. Not to mention the healing of the destructive movements of multinationals and of the obscure balance Western politicians and policymakers which they pursue in favor of economic interests.
Meanwhile our planet makes her daily, lonesome rounds in the universe. For most of us, negligent earthlings, it’s seemingly business as usual. Not so for the Spanish researcher and social scientist Grian A. Cutanda. This remarkable man recently wrote and published a bold, challenging and convincing book: The Earth Stories Collection, subtitled The Myths of the Future, volume 1 of The Earth Stories Collection (there’s also a volume 0 and a volume 2, many more volumes are in the making).
It will take a long, long time before Cutanda will perceive life again as business as usual, if it ever will. His acquaintance with the world of myths radically changed his outlook on Mother Earth as well as on us, earthlings. Above all, the social scientist discovered how myths possess the exquisite quality to open up and to move our innermost being. By the way, he himself is widely known for his, I would say after reading his book: hopeful activism.

Enormous shift in thinking and being
Back in 1997 scientist Cutanda was visiting Venezuela. On an expedition to the Roraima Tepui (the highest ‘table-mountain’ on earth, also, notably in the context of this review, called ‘the place where the gods live’) his guide, an indigenous Pemon, told Cutanda a myth of his people. Cutanda writes: “I remember saying something to him like ‘I love myths and legends!’ And the guide responded, appearing simultaneously offended and surprised: ‘This is not a legend! It actually happened!’”Here it is: the beginning of the enormous shift in Cutanda’s thinking and being. Thoroughly, he started his research on myths. Indeed, myths did not actually happen in historical time, that is: in the linear Western concept of time. Like it is said: truth doesn’t depend on the historical course of happenings. Myths represent a different sense of time, looking from a Western perspective: it is a no-time, very much similar to the way our memories work. What happened decades ago is still very much alive in our innermost being as if the memorized event took place yesterday. In other words, Cutanda discovered how the narrative of myths works in the same way we experience and ‘know’ our earthly existence. Of course, here we hear Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, one time friend of Sigmund Freud. The unearthed archetypes tango with the dreams which visit us during the night and the memories which overwhelm us during the day. Definitely not linear, but poetically thickened in layers.

Offense to science
Hmm. Profound knowledge derived from myths, in and of itself, must be an offense for the hardcore science as we know it and, more to the point, rely upon: empirically proofed, mechanistically solid, rationally based in the incorrigible iron law of cause and effect. Must ring a bell nowadays. Need proof?
The writings of Cutanda are a convincing attempt to account for his findings within a sociological-scientific framework. He is certainly in good company. There are many authors of literature, philosophers as well as psychiatrists whose work is rooted in the world of myths. Think for instance of Sophocles’ Oedipus, Euripides’ myths on Antigone and Dionysus. Those are impressive in laying bare the existential dialectics of becoming and destruction (Dionysus who longs to dissolve within the community, realizing he can never redeem himself from his lonely individuality), sacrificing oneself in the name of humanity (Antigone who insists to bury her brother within the city’s wall in name of humanity, paying with her own life) or the blindness of our most fundamental motivations (Oedipus who killed his father, married his mother and finally was tabbed blind because he couldn’t see the truth of reality). To name a few.

Though fruitful for his insight, these Euro-centric myths with their pain, suffering and not to forget the endless wars, didn’t uplift Cutanda’s Spanish soul. When he became familiar with the ‘Legend of the Rainbow Warriors’ it opened a completely different, what is more, hopeful horizon for him. Cutanda found his home in myths which are all but Western. The ‘Legend of the Rainbow Warriors’ tells how native-Americans saw “Light-skinned people will come out of the eastern sea in enormous canoes powered by huge white wings (…). The people who get off these boats will also be like birds (…). One of their feet will be like that of a dove, the other like that of an eagle. The foot of the dove will represent a beautiful, new religion of love and kindness, and the foot of the eagle will represent strength, technology, and power. The sharp foot of the eagle will dominate (…) they will claw at the Red Nations with their eagle feet, exploiting and enslaving them.” (Legend of The Rainbow Warriors, Steven McFadden, 1987). Of course, the Native Americans, overwhelmed by the violent domination of the ‘light-skinned people’, lost their confidence and courage, from all the outskirts of the earth who doesn’t recognize the enslaving claw of the eagle representing the imperialism of the West. The fish in the rivers floated belly up in the rivers. Let us say no more: Mother Earth reflected the state native-Americans found themselves.
Losing courage, – be it in modern 2023 times wearing masks of indifference, of self-indulgence, seeking one’s own pleasure forgetting fellowmen with whom we are equally dependent on the giving of Mother Earth – for the Native Americans experiencing the ‘Legend of the Rainbow Warriors’, it was like looking into the abyss of all times.

Light will come
Yet, again, here comes the inspiration for the radical turn of Cutanda’s imagination: “…then Light would come from the East, and the natives would begin to find their strength, their pride, and their wisdom. So would many of their brothers and sisters of the other nations –white, yellow, and black– who would strongly feel the calling of Spirit. They would understand the basic fact that it is the Earth which gives us the water, food, clothing, shelter, and beauty necessary for the circle of life. These awakened souls would find each other, and together they would teach all the people of the world to have respect for the Earth Mother, of whose very stuff human beings are made. Respect would prevail.” (McFadden, 1987)
Following Cutanda, I would say: active respect will prevail when we long for it, identifying ourselves with the doings of the Light from the East, awakening strength (no weapons), pride (no arrogance) and wisdom (no deceit). Cutanda understands the hope of all the people blocking highways, making lives uneasy, for the simple fact it is uneasy. Now. Look up.

Grian A. Cutanda: The Earth Stories Collection Vol. 1. The Myths of the Future. www.theearthstoriescollection.org

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Karin Melis

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Karin Melis


1 reactie

  1. Oscar Despinoza op 18 februari 2023 om 16:10

    One reader found himself muttering the following reflections:

    “.. these Euro-centric myths with their pain, suffering and not to forget the endless wars, didn’t uplift Cutanda’s Spanish soul.”

    The great tragic poets from Ancient Greece drew on and contributed to a rich treasure of myths. Is it illuminating to call either those myths or the dramas ‘Euro-centric’?

    The UNESCO aims to protect and preserve cultural and natural World Heritage sites ‘considered to be of outstanding value to humanity’. “What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.”
    Expanding the concept of ’site’ beyond physical sites, the Greek myths and dramas are surely a World Heritage site – of course one amongst many.

    Hard to resist the reminder that Europe herself thanks her name to the mythological princess who was abducted by Zeus, who, disguised as a bull, swam with her from Phoenicia (Lebanon) to Crete. Perhaps Europe itself still has a future amongst “the redemptive forces of the world of myths”.

    For instance:
    The Ukrainians are aspirationally Eurocentric – they want to participate in the life of a free, democratic, and prosperous West.

    “who doesn’t recognize the enslaving claw of the eagle representing the imperialism of the West”

    Western imperialism is overrated. Yes, we are reckoning with the consequences of the colonial conquests of the Dutch, the British, the French, the Portuguese, and the Spaniards.
    But putting only those in the spotlight ignores the Chinese, Russian, Turkish, and Japanese imperialisms – to stay only in recent or even current history.

    Putin has revived Russian imperialism and a Russian anti-Western nationalism. Both have deep roots. He wants to exploit the purported capacity for suffering of the Russian people. There will indeed be a great deal of that, to the detriment of the great culture of the Russian people. It is self-destructive also in a narrow sense: the demise of Putin and Putinism has become unavoidable.
    Putin neglected to read or remember Herodotus’ telling of the myth of King Croesus, and his ill-fated war against Cyrus de Great (the nascent Persian empire ..). (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/one-year-on-putin-must-wish-hed-read-his-herodotus/2023/02/18/713af434-af64-11ed-b0ba-9f4244c6e5da_story.html)

    The peculiar spectacle of Western European voices bemoaning Eurocentrism and Western imperialism deserves more inspection. For one thing it is a healthy sign of the West’s capacity for self-critique, and, believe it or not, openness to ’the other’, both essential elements of any free society.
    “Cutanda’s Spanish soul .. found his home in myths which are all but Western.”

    “Light-skinned people will come out of the eastern sea in enormous canoes powered by huge white wings ..”
    But after some bad news
    “…then Light would come from the East”
    Is that East the same eastern sea whence the ‘Western’ canoes came …?

    It has been claimed that the ‘Legend of the Rainbow Warriors’ is a fictional appropriation of Hopi traditions, going back to a 1962 book described as an attempt to evangelize within the Native American community.

    One member of the Oceti Sakowin criticized ’the Rainbow Family, a group that cites a fictitious “Native American prophecy” as informing their self-identification as “warriors of the rainbow” and willfully appropriates Native cultural practices ..’
    (Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/07/14/protect-he-sapa-stop-cultural-exploitation)

    I will not adjudicate this. It seems good to be aware of these controversies.

    There is an issue of principle: the adulation of purported ‘non-Western’ traditions may itself appear as invasive cultural appropriation to some ’non-Western’ persons. The tomahawks have not magically disappeared – Cutanda’s distaste for ‘endless wars’ notwithstanding.

    Rescuing the earth from her admirers must remain the task of a future philosophy of the earth.

    Oscar Despinoza

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