Sometimes I myth people

December 1, 2006 | By | 6 Replies More

Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t. We’re only human, after all. In my life journey I have beliefs that sometimes conflict with observable reality. The issue, then, is whether to conform my beliefs to observable reality. Too often, I don’t. I assemble the facts and weigh them, often discarding compelling proofs that what I hold are mythical beliefs.  But we all do this. 

I will cite an example: my belief in the fundamental goodness of human beings.

I didn’t begin to drive until I was 40. I had lived in St. Louis 35 years before that and my friends either didn’t know or didn’t care that I didn’t drive (to be honest, I had occasionally operated a car but, only in emergency situations where my lack of skills was outweighed by other more pressing concerns). I also lived or spent time in Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston, where there’s real public transportation. But here in St. Louis I used public transit.  Or I rode a bike, ran or walked, if traveling less than two miles. For most of that period I got around St. Louis (and the rest of the country) by hitchhiking. After high school, I hitched around the country and stayed in various places–I’d call home collect to let my family know I was alive. My most frequently traveled routes were between home and Colorado and home and Chicago.

In Chicago, I was a guest of friends at the University of Chicago. My friends were “wicked smart” and I had many interesting adventures in Chicago.  I was questioned by the police only once-that wasn’t for free climbing the outside of a dorm, or rappelling down the side of another, or for trying out a wetsuit in Lake Michigan at 2 a.m. while highly inebriated and having a VERY large dead carp bump into me, inspiring me to race out of the lake, yelling “shark!– There’s a rumor I have been awarded several degrees from the U of C. If so, I freely admit I have not matriculated at that august institution.

I went out to Colorado one winter for a vacation, then returned the next year, staying for three years. I went to every restaurant in town and applied for manager.  I wound up a live-in maid at Miller’s Idlewild Inn, a fabulous family place (which I hope is still exactly as it was then), which gave me room and board, $125.00 a month and a season ski pass.  I always hitched rides and probably traveled more than 25,000 miles. Everyone was good to me, always kind.  Many kept in touch after my trip with them.  One ride was with a woman who became a close friend and taught me how to French kiss. I guess the worst thing that happened was that sometimes I had to post bond for my traveling companions when they were stopped for minor traffic violations, but I wasn’t paid back—whoopee.

Myth is an unproved personal or collective belief.  Faith is a belief not based upon proof.  If these are what I define them to be, my faith is also a myth. I’m OK with that. I think we have bogged down myth with huge bags of negative connotation and hide ourselves from the wonder that there is in faith or myth. For example, I recently heard two cosmologists explaining on NPR that the “Big Bang” is a myth. We don’t know what occurred at 10 to the negative 23rd (or was it 43rd) power seconds after the Big Bang, do we? But, using myth and faith gives us access to a startling description of the universe.

I’ve spent many nights looking at the sky, wondering what was there as I stood on a lonely highway awaiting the kindness of some stranger. I sang songs, made up songs, wrote a Broadway play (a Faustian musical), walked, slept under bridges, suffered from the weather.  Countless times, I was rewarded by the kindness of strangers, sometimes sleeping, unharmed for hundreds of miles and arriving to be awakened with an offer of a meal or once, “white lightnin’” (whew, that wasn’t water!).  I’ve been offered jobs in many cities.  I was given assistance with a career in politics in Chicago.  I was taught the words to “Begin the Beguine” by an old Marine who told me of the time he was on a break from battles in the South Pacific and had danced with a beautiful woman to that song on a moonlit night.

Despite so much evidence that so many people are so inhumane to one another, I hold to my myth of the goodness of people. When my neighbor called tonight to warn me that my car might be “plowed-in” when the city cleared the streets, I felt the goodness of humanity.  When meals were dropped off while my family struggled with illness; when our snow was shoveled by someone.  Or tonight, while I sat in “my” chair with my kids curled in my lap, with one or two kitties, and my wife nearby reading her magazine, I have faith that people are good, and believe.

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Category: American Culture, Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

Comments (6)

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  1. Boelf says:

    I think myth and faith are two very different words.

    If I call something a myth I am stating explicitly that it is not true.

    Faith for its part gets used many different ways. The big bank has a lot of evidence for its existence. There is of course a lot of room for speculation but I have never heard such speculation called myth before.

    There is the case of an assumption based on evidence. Faith in a friend that the sun will rise tomorrow would be an example. We would use the word "faith" in this case but new evidence could certainly change such faith.

    Then there is believe for which evidence is irrelevant. This is the sense in which "faith" is usually used in religion, lore or alternative medicine. Faith in this sense is dangerous to the holder as well as everyone else.

  2. Dan says:

    "If I call something a myth I am stating explicitly that it is not true."

    That is a colloquial definition of the word; you are not wrong, but you are not using myth literally. A myth is a collective social belief founded upon faith in something outside observable evidence. Myth is legend, and it can often carry meaningful applications in everyday life.

  3. hogiemo says:

    When "languaging", I attempt to be precise.

    In this instance I have taken a dictionary definition:

    "myth" in the sense that "Dictionary.com" uses in its No. 5 definition; "an unproven (or false)[personal or] collective belief…". I did not use the disjunctive "or false" because it did not fit my particular desired usage and since the disjunctive was used in the definition, I opted to delete same as a "not positive" in the boolean sense. Perhaps I used license to delete the language after "belief", I'll accept that criticism. The balance appeared to me to be surplusage which on its face was not definitional but, normative in a definitional context and inappropriate.

    "faith" in the sense that "Dictionary.com" uses in its No. 2 definition; "belief that is not based on proof."

    Yes, I did look the words up before writing to see if my use was as exact as I had intended.

    Myth is not necessarily false, and faith may be in evidence. Hence, my post. Have a Happy Holiday Season, and a peaceful New Year.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    Seems to me faith and myth have straightforward, yet opposite, definitions:

    Faith: used when we refer to our own belief in something unproven;

    Myth: used when we refer to everyone else's belief in something unproven.

  5. Thomas says:

    When were you at Miller's I was there in the early 80's and what a grand time was had by all. I'm Tom Chynoweth I tended bar till 82 or 83.

  6. hogiemo says:

    Nope, I was '75-'77. I was a live-in maid, washed dishes for a winter and then went to work at the Pizza Hut and the ski area. I came back to St. Louis after my dog died and a southern belle broke my heart.

    Don't remember a Tom Chenoweth. I hung out with some of the folks on the ski school staff and some friends from Fraser and Granby, later some rugby buddies from Grand Lake after we started the Fraser Valley Rugby Club.

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