August 10, 2010

The Power of Story

What I’m Reading Today: More great Kraken.

There’s a manhunt going on in Wyoming and Montana right now. Three convicts escaped from a prison in Arizona with the help of one of the men’s cousins. They escaped by kidnapping a truck driver. They let him go free, but since then they’ve killed two people on vacation and burned the bodies. Two of the men have since been caught, one in the small town of Meeteetse, Wyoming, not far from where I grew up. The guy attended church, sang hymns, and mowed the church lawn before a woman he chatted with recognized him and turned him in. The last man is still on the loose in Glacier National Park in Montana with his cousin, a woman.

The man and woman think of themselves as Bonnie and Clyde. That got me thinking of the power of role models and the power of myth.

Role models are powerful things. Whether it’s Ghandi or Michael Jordan or President Obama or Queen Elizabeth, they provide hope and a sense of identity to so many people. But the same can be said for negative role models. Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, even Hitler ~ there are some people who idolize them and identify with them and want to be them.

Especially when the myths that grow up around them are so powerful. Certain myths are popular with certain groups of people in certain times. The myth of the cowboy is a popular one, but I’ve seen the dirty underbelly of that myth. The myth of freedom, whether in the form of Bonnie and Clyde, the Native American way of life, or democracy, is very powerful. They have their own narratives associated with them. The lone man at the voting booth, the cowboy riding the range, the Native American at one with the natural world. They are iconic.

I wanted to end by saying that these are all stories, and that stories give our lives meaning and tell us who we are. Us humans have an innate urge to create narrative in order to understand who we are and to understand the past and to foretell the future.

Questions of the Day: Is there a myth that you find particularly attractive? Have you seen the dark side of a myth?

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