Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mythologizing: The same old story

A man who was neither good nor bad was on a journey. As it happened, he passed into a place filled with nothing but dust where even the wind didn't travel. While he was walking in that place, he noticed a little bird lying upon its feathered back with its tiny twig-like feet sticking into the air. It certainly looked dead there, in the middle of the dusty road. But, just as the man was passing, the bird stirred, opened its eyes and looked at him.

An illustration by Sanchi Ogawa
 from Japanese Fairy Tales, by Theresa Peirce Williston.
Rand McNally & Co. 1904
Even though the man was neither good nor bad, he was curious about the bird, so he asked, "Little bird, is your wing broken? Is that why you are not flying?"

"No," said the bird, "I am whole."

"Why don't you fly then? Being a bird you could put this place behind you."

"I have other responsibilities," said the bird.

"What might those be?"

"The sky is going to fall."

The man couldn't keep from laughing.

The bird said nothing and only stretched its feet a little closer to the distant sky.

"Little bird, really, if the sky should fall do you think you could stop it with your puny legs."

"One does what one can," said the bird, "One does what one can."

That isn't my story. It appeals to me, but I never made it up. I can't remember where I heard it or read it, and I don't doubt that I've added some embellishments of my own. I've probably left some really good parts out, too, because they didn't mesh with whatever story I was telling about myself at the time.

It is such a little story. Only a gesture really, like those brushstrokes of Sanchi Ogawa.

Does it work for you? What are the stories you use to mythologize your world? 

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