The process of composting fascinates me. I am English, and share with many of my countrymen an amateurish fondness for, frankly, messing around in gardens: [...]
And one learns a lot about compost: kitchen scraps and garden left-overs and refuse that rot down, over time, to a thick, black, clean, nutritious dirt, teeming with life, perfect for growing things in.
Myths are compost.
They begin as religions, the most deeply held of beliefs, or as the stories that accrete to religions as they grow.
And then, as the religions fall into disuse, or the stories cease to be seen as the literal truth, they become myths. And the myths compost down to dirt, and become a fertile ground for other stories and tales which blossom like wildflowers. Cupid and Psyche is retold and half forgotten and remembered again and becomes Beauty and the Beast.
Too often, myths are uninspected. We bring them out without looking at what they represent, nor what they mean. Urban Legends and the Weekly World News present us with myths in the simplest sense: a world in which events occur according to story logic--not as they do happen, but as they should happen.
But retelling myths is important. The act of inspecting them is important. It is not a matter of holding a myth up as a dead thing, desiccated and empty ("Now class, what have we learned from the Death of Baldur?"), nor is it a matter of creating New Age self help tomes ("The Gods Inside You! Releasing Your Inner Myth.") Instead we have to understand that even lost and forgotten myths are compost, in which stories grow.
What is important is to tell the stories anew, and to retell the old stories. They are our stories, and they should be told.
I have lived here for six years, and I still do not understand it: a strange collection of home-grown myths and beliefs, the ways that America explains itself to itself.