30 November 2010

deeper than words, into myth

“Schools could make a decisive contribution to religious tolerance by fostering an appreciation of poetry. We have a crying need for a school system in which the cultivation of a poetic mind ranks high. A sense for poetry is indispensable for the understanding of myths.” (72) That’s from Brother David Steindl-Rast, in his book Deeper than Words: Living the Apostles’ Creed. (I’ve told my wife that this book is a mystical commentary on the Apostles’ Creed.)

The idea that “mythology” equals “fairy tales” or even “falsehoods” has become entrenched in our minds. This is unfortunate. For many, the very concept of “mythological truth” seems like a contradiction in terms. In our society, we tend to prize scientific and literal terminology alone as ways of searching for, and expressing, the truth.

Still, who can deny that there’s an ocean of wisdom that simply cannot be communicated with cold facts and figures? (Try writing a love letter that way!) That is the power of poetry. That is the power of myth, which Richard Rohr has described as “something that is profoundly true at the deepest levels of life.”

The TV show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly recently did a piece on Brother David and gratitude. Click here to see it.

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