Myths the Real Religion
Since the beginning of thought, man has always wondered about everything that goes on in the world around him/her. In early archaic time man used myths to explain this world. Myths revolve around the idea that there is something else (gods) in charge of the fate of man. Man believed that in the end the gods decide who will be victorious and who will fail. This belief also helped soothe the terror of history he/she felt. Although the world today does not widely agree about this anymore, myths are still prevalent in aspects of modern man’s life. Most of these modern references are seen of course in religion, literature, and poetry; but also in several popular movies.
In this essay I will look at myth’s (in general) role in modern and archaic time. To do this it would seem most logically to first look at the time of archaic man (cyclical time) and the time of modern man (linear time), then spend some time on different and similar archetypes found in both archaic and modern time, and lastly take a look at how history (the fear and the acceptance of it) differs in both times. In accomplishing the task of explaining these points I will be using the ideas explained in Eliade’s book “The Myth of the Eternal Return,” and use examples from the movie “The Natural.” Plus any other examples that happen to come across in my mind as I ponder these topics, just as an archaic man pondered the world around him/her.
Now, how does one explain time? One of the reasons time is not easily explained is because time is relative. The concept has changed greatly since the time of archaic man to modern man. Today time has been made concrete and final or linear. In today’s world time is what runs everything; we are a very time oriented society. It wasn’t always like this though, in archaic time early man had quite different thoughts on time. Time for archaic man was ever renewing, in other words time was cyclical.
Linear time is what we live in today. In this time there is a beginning (birth) and an end (death), but there is no rebirth/renewal to this one way movement. When we mess up in this time there is nothing we can do to take it back. Because I am sure that most of us know what I mean by this linear time I am not going to take time to give numerous examples. First I would just like to say that linear time is a fairly new concept brought about by the Christian religion. When Christ was born according to the religion’s beliefs there was no going back. Sins were now forgiven if there was repentance or they weren’t there was none. There was no second chance at life; once a person dies that is it there is no renewal of that life. Christianity gives two pathways that may happen. One is heaven, which to me sounds like a second life in a sense a renewal but not quite the same as what I will talk about later while giving thought to cyclical time. And two, Hell which really is the end, but again this is somewhat cyclical as well. For eternity you are tortured for your sins. Is that not a circular cycle? This circular cycle is also the same with Heaven. If one ends up in Heaven for eternity one will be happy and blessed. This to me is a very repetitive/circular cycle. Even linear history repeats itself in this cyclical sense. Wars are always being fought, new leaders are taking power, change is always being asked for (most cases that change is based off of the past), and the people always want to go back to the “good old days.” This to me is a very cyclical thought process for what we today call linear time.
In cyclical time though there is always a repetition of time. Cyclical time is always moving in a circle, ever repeating, hence the name. For archaic man cyclical time meant that one had another chance each period that time repeated itself, and that death was not final. This new beginning that death brings was to the archaic man like the cycle of the seasons. To him or her if the world was always in a constant state of renewal then man should be as well. This is significant because man can only think in the eternal sense; one cannot imagine not being. So one needs to explain what happens after death in a way that is eternal.
In the movie “The Natural '' there are examples of cyclical time everywhere. Baseball itself is a cyclical sport; everything comes back to home base in a never-ending circle. This is exactly what Eliade talks about in his book the “Eternal Return.” Near the beginning of the movie we see Roy Hobs being shot, and are then led to believe that he is dead. The cyclical aspect shows up here because in accordance to the world of baseball and everything else he knew, he was, but the renewal of his life in baseball is brought about and also his relationship with Iris. Here there is a rebirth of everything he once knew before he met Harriet Bird. Later in the movie Roy meets Memo Paris. Memo in some senses is the reincarnation of Harriet Bird. Roy even voices this when Memo pulls a gun on him near the end of the film when he says that he has met her before. Again this reincarnation of Harriet Bird is cyclical. This also shows that the past never really goes away. In a cyclical sense history is always repeating and in a linear sense history is what we learn from (we are always looking back). The largest example of cyclical time is in the very last scene according to what I’ve come to interpret from the movie. This last scene shows Roy in the field playing ball with his son as Iris watches. It is a very picturesque moment and makes you believe that you know good will always overcome evil. Personally though I believe that that last moment is taking us back to when Roy was a child on the farm enjoying the same game of catch with his father. Taking us back to the beginning, this scene shows us there is still a chance for his son, a young farm boy like himself to become the best there ever will be in baseball. It’s the rebirth of life; it’s like a second chance.
The concept of the second chance coming from his son brings me to ponder a new thought. A thought that has to do with modern time; the fact that fathers and mothers live the life they missed through their children, or even the life they did have. Parents expect their children to be the sports stars they were or wanted to be in life. Sometimes the children live up to their parent’s expectations. Other times these expectations are too harsh and the children rebel. I believe that the parents are trying to live a second life through their children because the children have a new beginning that the parents cannot have or at least believe they cannot have. In the end the children are in a sense missing their first chance at life, if they are taught linear time. If both the parents and the children live in this linear time they will continue to try to achieve everything that is appealing in cyclical time through their children and the cycle will keep going. So in a sense there is still cyclical time even in modern linear time.
Archetypes are the general type or master type that is behind all stories/myths. There are specific ones in every culture, and are passed on by the collective unconscious of these cultures. Archetypes are used in myths to convey the collective feelings of the culture. In the movie “The Natural'' we see Roy Hobs as the perfect baseball player that always does what is right. That is the collective consciousness of the baseball players. That great player is also a great person is the eyes of society. This is seen in the mythology as well; great warriors/heroes are also intelligent and good people. This archetype brings out the ideals that man has for certain people in society.
There are also differences between today’s archetypes and those of archaic man. These differences show how the human race has grown. Whether this growth is for better or worse we cannot truly know. As we have been seeing in the “Odyssey” Odysseus is a great hero and a good person according to that time, but he also pillages villages. Today pillaging villages would not fall under the category of a good person but it did back then. Hopefully we as a society will continue to improve on the collective consciousness that is passing from generation to generation as we have already. Archetypes are a very important part of society that teaches morals and how society as a whole should act and behave. These archetypes also give meaning to our everyday actions.
The terror of history is something that an archaic man feared, and explains his/her need to have cyclical time. To these archaic people, if history were permanent then that meant that there was nothing after death. Death was a frightening thing that could not be the last thing in the archaic collective consciousness. This would also go against everything that they saw in the world around them, the renewal of the seasons, where they first saw cyclical time. In “The Natural '' we see again the scene where we believe that Roy Hobs is murdered. That is frightening to believe that the main character could die in the first half of the movie. As we see later in the movie that Roy is not dead, this brings a sense of rebirth to the movie. This rebirth takes away the idea of the terror of history. Again this is important because man cannot think in any other way except the eternal, and needs something to insure that there is something after death as I explain earlier.
In today’s linear time we see more of an acceptance of this history. This acceptance gives today’s man a chance to at least learn from the mistakes made in the past. Although archaic man can learn from past mistakes, he/she did this through stories/myths that were passed down from generation to generation. Today’s world accepts history as a fact, which this fact fits into the thoughts that the Christian religion has brought to modern man; there is a beginning and an end. We see this in the movie when Harriet Bird believes she has done her job by killing Roy and then she commits suicide. She believed that death was the end, but as we can see later in the movie that was not the end for either of them. Roy does come back and he makes his name known in baseball. Harriet Bird also comes back in a way, in the form of Memo Paris. Memo tries to finish what Harriet started.
Then we have the repetition of history, which as I see is prevalent in both linear and cyclical time. Repetition is seen of course in cyclical time because cyclical time is a never-ending repeating cycle. The repetition seen in linear time is actually a lot like the repetition seen in cyclical time. This is because as history shows most wars are over the same things just different eras and different places. War is mostly about resources; whether that be land itself, for women, or oil as we see in Iraq. The repetition is seen in “The Natural'' every time that Roy hits a home run or the coach talks about how he should’ve been a farmer. Small subtle things like that are what keep the story line flowing in a coherent manner even if it started in the middle of the actual timeline of the story. The Odyssey also does this by repeating the rosy fingered dawn. It shows that even storytelling repeats itself; even back to when stories were told and not read or presented as movies. Christianity also has its own repetition from past religions. The story of Noah has many similarities with parts of the story of Gilgamesh, and the story of Jesus also has similarities to the story Horus. Horus is the son of the sun god in Egyptian mythology. The sun god is the god above all gods, and his son, Horus, was crucified and came back to life three days later. In cyclical time history is always repeating; the gods must do the same acts every day/year in order for life as man knows it to continue. This could be as simple as Apollo pulling his chariot across the sky every day to bring the sunlight, or as complex as Demeter having to rescue her daughter every year from the grasp of Hades to end her sorrow and for spring to come. Repetition is everywhere if you only look for it
In this essay I looked at the effects a myth has on modern time and the effects it had on archaic time. In doing so I explored the cyclical time of archaic man, the linear time of modern man, spent some time on both time eras archetypes, and finally thought about the fear and acceptance of history in both times. In looking at these points one finds that archaic man used myths to explain the world around them, and even though modern man has tried to reject these ideas; these ideas have prevailed and are very prevalent in modern society.
After taking a look at cyclical time and linear time, archetypes, and history I have not actually figured out everything on my thoughts of religion and myths. Pondering this has helped me understand small pieces of religion and myth, but true fully I do not believe we are supposed to understand it completely. That mystery is part of what makes them intriguing.