The power of mythology

Recently, I read a piece by Adam Curtis which, in tandem with a recent Guardian article by George Monbiot, got me thinking about the power of mythology.

It’s a generally accepted sociological theory that humans have evolved to love stories because they were for passing knowledge on down the generations. Only with the advent of writing, in the very recent past, did we have an alternative. Mythology was a crucial part of this love: it put a human face on the unknowable and merciless forces that drive the universe. For millenia, mythologies of various sorts endured and evolved. Modern mythologies nowadays are Christianity, Islam and other religions.

The guiding moral light that religion gives, for large parts of the “western” world (as it’s known nowadays), has dimmed dramatically. Constant scandals and a general cynicism means that people look elsewhere for stories and myths that help explain the essential cruelty of life. But the appetite for stories and explanations have not gone away. Instead they seem to have found their outlets in conspiracy theories or, as Monbiot puts it, conspiracy fictions.

Nonsense like that spouted by flat earthers and anti-vaxxers gives comfort to those that cannot deal with the fact that every person is a tiny, insignificant dot in a universe that does not care about you one iota. Instead, they explain that yes, you are special because only you (and a few of your closest internet friends) know the real truth.

The meaning of life. That’s what people are looking for. Since religion is discredited, they instead look for it in other mythologies. And the internet (i.e. other people) gladly gives it to them.

It’s something I don’t understand. I made my peace with my unimportance while I was a teenager. “Shit happens” is my philosophy and it’s stood me in good stead over the years. Why can other people not accept it?