My work as a mythologist and my home base in the Mojave desert are closely connected. The desert—and the years that I spent literally wandering around— are one thread in the mythic pattern that informs my life. For almost twenty-five years I have called upon the empty fullness of this ancient place to help me clear my mind, crack it open, even lose it. And the desert is where mythology first called to me, as a subject for conscious study and engagement.
The story of these relationships is already long and still being composed. When I lift my eyes from my computer screen I see the rocky slopes. But I managed to put a little bit of that biography and my mission as a mythologist into a short article that I recently wrote for The Sunrunner: The Journal of the Real Desert. Apparently few things are as motivating as a deadline and word count limit!
I’m sharing this article with you because I put a few things together that I haven’t said elsewhere. And if you want good information on the desert and local cultural events, The Sunrunner is a valuable resource.
Discovering Myth in the Desert
The desert is a mythologically potent place. It is the original wilderness, a liminal space, and an edge, a place of great creativity. Our high desert community reflects this. The desert is also a place of revelation and attracts seekers of all stripes. So while I think that every community needs a local mythologist, it is especially appropriate that I’m here now, working with this material in the Mojave. The work began in 2009, with the High Desert Mythological Roundtable Group, and has grown into the Myth in the Mojave radio show and Mythic Mojo.
Mythic Mojo reflects my long-standing interest in transformation and cultural change. Time is flying. The world is rapidly changing and transformation is now a personal and cultural imperative. But how do we survive it or make it happen? Mythology can help us frame that question and find some answers.
When I tell people that I’m a mythologist, they often think that I said “pathologist.” So when I start talking about stories we have a funny moment. But I find this misunderstanding interesting because mythology and pathology are deeply connected. A lot of what is truly pathological about our world today is the result of living in a dysfunctional mythology, and a lack of conscious relationship to the mythological dimension of life.
Today people commonly think of mythology as a set of old stories about gods that no one believes in—or should believe in—anymore. And a myth is something that isn’t true. And stories are just make-believe entertainment. So what’s the value in this? But myths and stories are among our oldest tools and teachers and they contain the collective wisdom of our species. We live in a pernicious fantasy of “objectivity” and have largely lost the knack for thinking metaphorically. We’ve been taught to underestimate the important role of imagination in our lives and the necessity of our storytelling.
But human beings understand events and turn them into experiences by making them stories. And we are searching, seeking, even yearning, to know our own nature and the origin of the cosmos. How did we get here? Why are we here? And where are we going? There are no definitive answers to those questions but we have many beautiful theories and best guesses, clothed in images and metaphors, in the narrative form of mythology.
Mythic Mojo is a new platform that I’ve created to teach people how to find and use the power of myth to transform their lives. I call it Mythic “Mojo” because connecting with the mythic patterns in your life and tuning into the mythic dimension brings a particular energy and soulful magic into the everyday. I’m not talking about hocus-pocus. I’m talking about aliveness, synchronicity and communion with the world, inspiration and creativity. There are three ways that you can work with me at Mythic Mojo right now. You can join the conversation in a low-key way by subscribing to the email newsletter. You can also have a Mythic Pattern Reading. This is one on one work that we do together, to place you in an archetypal context. In the near future, you will be able to take video classes in the Course in Applied Mythology, to learn how to work with myths and stories and relate them to your life right now.
I think this is a unique moment in our evolution as mythmakers because we no longer have to “believe” in them (the traditional realm of religion) or deny them (the old school scientific viewpoint). We can choose to think mythologically and add that viewpoint to our repertoire of human capacities.
The High Desert Mythological Roundtable group meets the last Tuesday of every month, from 7-9PM at the Radio Free Joshua Tree Listening Lounge on Hwy 62 in Joshua Tree.
Myth in the Mojave airs every Saturday at 3PM PST on Radio Free Joshua Tree. Archives of past shows are available at www.mythinthemojave.com and through Myth in the Mojave on Facebook.