Tuesday, 26 May 2009

827 - Found Objects, Mythos and Logos

A good summary, by Gus diZerega in Beyond The Burning Times, of the difference between Mythos and Logos - two modes of thinking explored by, among others, Karen Armstrong in her works on the history of religious thought.

Before modernity's rise, 'myth was primary' because it provided a way to understand the spiritual meaning embedded within life itself. Myth concerned itself with the meaning in life, not the meaning of life. Logos in this usage refers to reason, understanding the rationally verifiable relations between things.

Myth is not primitive science because it focuses on inner meaning rather than exterior event. Science explores externals: what can be seen, measured, repeated and predicted. Myth is a culturally and psychologically framed way of illuminating patterns and depths of inner meaning. The hagiographies of Saints would be a pretty noncontroversial example of Catholic Christian myths, but the early church even considered basic elements of Christian theology to be myths. For example, St Gregory of Nyssa (335-395)... according to Armstrong [in The Battle for God]... 'had explained the three hypostases of Father, Son and Spirit were not objective facts but simply "terms that we use" to express the way in which the "unnameable and unspeakable" divine nature (ousia) adapts itself to the limits of our human minds'.

Sorry about the dip into Greek at the end there!

It seems to me, after yesterday's post, that treating life as a sequence of found objects opens the way to both mythic and logical thought. I suspect that I favour the former more than the latter, at least on this blog. For example, I included the third 'found object', a song thrush that startled me by its closeness, as much to say 'This begins a meditation on our mutual awareness of one another' as 'Here's a rare thing: how exactly did it happen?'

So with Whitley Bay. A logical exploration of the town and its regeneration might include documentary evidence (photos, journalism, oral histories), analysis of Whitley's economy and sociology, and theories of town planning. Decisions would be deconstructed, courses of action justified.

A mythical exploration of the town takes us down a different route. The documentary evidence might be there, as a series of found objects, but analysis turns to celebration, deconstruction to lament. Oral history becomes testament, in the sense that it starts with the value of the town assumed, and spins art out of our encounter with it.

It's not so simple, however, to equate art with Mythos and science with Logos any more. People are making art out of the stuff of science, and science is reaching ever inward, so that a science book exudes the joy of a poem. If technologies represent the marriage of art and science, and Whitley Bay, regenerated, the application of both vision and realism, then the kernel out of which these things grow is the encounter with the object, the town, as found, in the first place.

Perhaps in this encounter, like a seed, all promise of future growth is held.

No comments: