Time Apart

solitude hiking on well worn pathAt the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, there is a great deal of emphasis placed upon community. In Joseph Campbell’s model of the interpretation of mythology, social meaning is one of four fundamental functions of myth.

Yet, Campbell also emphasized the value of solitude and lack of accountability to the demands of community. He once advised, “You must have a place to which you can go, in your heart, your mind, or your house, almost every day, where you do not know what you owe anyone or what anyone owes you. You must have a place you can go to where you do not know what your work is or who you work for, where you do not know who you are married to or who your children are.”

How can mythology at once serve to uphold the community, even as it requires separation from community?

Contemplate this mythological quandry in solitude, but come together to share your thoughts about it in the first of the mythology discussion series in the Adult Religious Education program at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, 9:00 AM on November 20, and again at 12:00 Noon on the same day.

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4 responses to “Time Apart”

  1. Mary Kirkpatrick says :

    Dear Jonathan,

    Read “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat,” a marvellous short story by Rudyard Kipling which explains how this particular balance/tension works, or can work, in India…

    Happy to loan it if you like!

    Mary Kirkpatrick

    • ithacamyth says :

      Thanks for the suggestion, Mary. I’ve found a copy online, and am about to sit down to read it.

      Here’s a link to the story, which is now out of copyright: http://kipling.thefreelibrary.com/Second-Jungle-Book/1-3

      I’m wondering – could you share with us your interpretation of it, and how it relates to the question here?

      • Mary Kirkpatrick says :

        First, could we please sign our messages? We know you as Jonathan, not Ithacamyth 🙂

        The story is about a man who through most of his life is at the pinnacle of society, prime minister of a province(?) in India, very well educated, respected, connected, influential, all that. At a point in his career he decides it is time to leave everything and become a “holy man” — he wanders with only his staff and begging bowl till he finds a suitable place in the mountains, and lives there communicating only with a few villagers. The point of the story (for me) is that 1. in India this behavior is not considered crazy, and 2. the man remains perfectly aware of his role in society, and when extreme circumstances force him to take action and lead all the villagers to safety, he doesn’t hesitate, even though he is very weak and at the end of his life.

        Mary Kirkpatrick

      • ithacamyth says :

        What I found interesting in the story was that the character was not taken through a moral purge in which he was to learn that his previous role was wicked in some way. The two roles were merely different. One was not superior to the other. They merely had different purposes.

        In terms of signing names, I think it was significant that the character underwent a change in names as he went through a shift in social roles. I suspect that people are doing something similar when they are represented by their usernames online, rather than the names they were given on their birth certificates.

        A name is a mask. Different masks have different purposes, but they’re all masks. I will, however, if it makes you more comfortable, try to remember to sign with the mask of…

        Jonathan

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