Recent sleep studies have shown that dreams are not the result of randomly firing neurons nor are they just our unconscious selves wrestling with anxieties and desires. Rather, they are the way our brains create and maintain neural pathways. In short, dreams are necessary for proper brain development and function. Dreams are actually necessary for survival. And what are dreams but myths we create in the middle of the night to help us make sense out of the world. We are myth making machines even when we’re unconscious and we create them to survive. We create them so we can function in the world and lead healthy lives. And by myth I don’t mean stories that are false or untrue, but stories that are true and real in the deepest way.
Our myths are the stories that tell us who we are and why we’re here. Stories that give us meaning and a sense of grounding in the world. Stories that create culture and community. I don’t think we humans were meant to live in the world without such stories/myths. I think real harm is done to society and us individually when we disavow the need for myths.
While our myths can come from a variety of sources, they have historically come most from our religious traditions. And so I’m deeply concerned about this radical postmodern rejection today of all religion, this view that religion is just superstitious nonsense that belongs in the trash heap of history or kept like a relic in a museum, like a piece of ancient pottery – novel and fascinating but ultimately irrelevant for life in the modern world. Ironically, this so-called postmodern approach is actually quite modern in its objective certainty that it is far superior to anything that came before and that all myths are to be critiqued except of course its own. Many postmodern perspectives on religion today are woefully inept at acknowledging that they’re not post myth, post metanarrative, post metaphysics, but just supplanting one kind for another.
The true postmodern perspective, and the one I am advocating, would on one hand acknowledge the culturally contingent nature of our religions, the fact that they didn’t just fall out of heaven one day but are very much the product of human minds, while simultaneously acknowledging that they do contain a kind of absolute transcendent truth. There is an event couched deep within our religion, a religion hidden within our religion. This deeper religion is a sense of transcendence, awe, wonder, and gratitude for life itself. This deeper religion is what provokes acts of love and grace. This deeper religion is what connects us to each other and the divine. Let’s not lose that. Let’s hang onto our myths and religion, cause they’re true and they’re good for us.