There are many more. Origin myths are fascinating because they present structures for absolute values for societies and cultures. The origin myths stressing harmony with the earth and the other living beings on it are obviously very different from some of the more Western origin myths, which suggest the earth and non-human animals are there intentionally to be pillaged and despoiled by humans. The various pillars of judgment imposed by creation myths are not universal but they virtually all address both creation and a "fall" from grace. Stroul describes this so beautifully when she explains:
What happens as a result of this fall is "crushing: people perceive themselves as only relative, dependent and conditioned - as beings under the constant threat of not being and meaninglessness. They are cut off from any recognition of themselves as participants in the Holy, which transcends the created opposition of being and not being. And the world is understood similarly. Uprooted from its absolute ground, the world waits for its destruction as societies wait for revolution and individuals for death. Everything is meaningless and vacuous and essentially unreal. "God," as the current expression goes, "is dead." The myths attempt to correct this misperception. They serve as a response ......and urge their followers to stand again on firmer ground, on the absolute which was and is always present, which they have temporarily forgotten."
-Barbara C. Sproul
In light of the Chinese Lunar New Year now being the Year of the Wood Dragon, in which earth and stability are emphasized and kindness and compassion stressed as the ways to avoid the tumultuous nature of some of the more negative predictions for the year, this seems particularly on point. People often think of the Dragon sign as powerful and aggressive, but an important Dragon trait is also kindness.
At the risk of TMI, this all made me think about an experience I went through recently in which I was told I might have cancer because an MRI misdiagnosed a lesion as a “potential 4 out 5 cancer risk,” according to the physician reading the MRI. Because that’s not absolutely terrifying (!). This was followed by numerous doctor visits and tests, each one more stressful than the last, until finally, it was determined that “oh, no, just kidding. That was wrong. You’re fine.” During the months of this uncertainty, I thought a lot about what mattered. I can tell you what didn’t matter: money, status, tangible items. Even accomplishments like degrees or honors or awards didn’t cross my mind. Instead, my mind kept returning again and again to memories of small kindnesses – being a student on a holiday break out in the ocean with my friend and seeing a struggling yellow jacket, waterlogged and drowning, and how we plucked her up even though we were afraid of being stung, and swam back to shore with her and put her on a plant - just a thousand tiny, minute acts of kindness. These were how I valued my life; how I made my peace that, overall, despite all my flaws and failings, I felt ok with death (not desiring it but at least ok with the fact my life had been pretty good; had been well-lived). Small acts of kindness were the only places my mind went in determining, yes, I had a happy life.
Now, in studying these creation myths and listening to people talk about the meaning of a Wood Dragon Year, I see this idea of kindness being re-emphasized again and again. I’m not sure to whom to attribute this quote but it’s something like, "what is our purpose, but to love?"
I agree. To love. And, if we are lucky, to be loved in return.