Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Happy New Year - Ancient Stories, are they relevant today?

There are many things that the ancient stories can help us with today.  Mostly inspiration.  You can’t take a story at face value, unless we want pure entertainment.  Looking deeply at the stories we can learn a lot and see ourselves staring back at us.  Not much has changed with us humans really if you think about it.  There is still greed, corruption and war usually over what others have that we want (the big bully in the playground after the good candy).

I also believe that with so much mobility with people these days, folks lack grounding, and the ancient stories allow us to gain some grounding and in some cases recapture our heritage.  Many of the old tales tell us about the ‘cruel world’ that is out there and how the heroes and heroines (mostly vagabonds and waifs) of these stories figure it all out.  By doing this the stories give us hope.

We all know there are no magical spells in the real world, but there is hope that we will find solutions if we look hard enough and find the right people to help us.

The really ancient stories such as Gilgamesh and Beowulf teach us about the old cultures, and the hero code of conduct.  Many of the ancient heroes talk about their kin, their relatives.  Theses characters are usually introduced as son of son of such and such, cousin to so and so, and warrior under this lord or that.  These heroes are deeply rooted in their own genealogy, they know who they come from, where they come from, and are fiercely proud if it.  And when it comes to walking the talk, they definitely do that.  Some might see this as bragging, but there is more to it than that.  It is about pride of the family name and honour to themselves and their lineage.  When a hero says he will slay the dragon he will slay the dragon or die trying.  We could all learn from this.  He doesn’t pretend to slay the beast by hiding it somewhere and giving it a pay off.  He slays the beast.  I think some of the West’s politicians could learn something from this, as well as some CEOs.

When warriors have done well for their lord or chieftain, these men and women in these tales receive great honour and recompense.  I have to confess that I see a lot of greed in some of the country’s leaders (and also abroad), be it company owners or world leaders.  The kings and rulers would offer much in the ancient tales, to the men that made their kingdom (company?) what it is.  In some cultures the leaders give away almost all to the rest of their people knowing that they will get it back in the future if they are a good leader.  I think this is something the West could learn from!  Of course we know these are stories, and in real life the riches came from plundering and invading other nations.  And still do.  But if we look at these stories and how some parts (by all means not all!) we could learn from it.  And no, I don’t mean we go beating our chests and buy guns saying we will kill the beast, but look at the problems we have and when something needs to change, change it.  If something needs fixing, fix it.  Don’t just patch it up and make do, but fix something.  There is much that is broken in our society and some of these ancient tales can help us.  If not just to see the issue, but to confront it and do something to make things better for all, and not just one person.  Some of these tales are mirrors to our own inner selves and can help us see what we are really trying to achieve.  This applies to adults as well as children.  Also they are really good stories.

At this time of year I could point to two legends that show remarkable ethics: the story of King Wenceslas and the Arthurian story of Sir Cleges and his miraculous winter cherries.  Cleges routes out corruption and greed and is rewarded for this.  His Lord, King Uther Pendragon (Arthur’s father), looks after Cleges and his family (who had become penniless).  Wenceslas of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) was one of the most revered Kings (actually Duke) of his time, a fair and just man who dispensed justice with an even hand, despite his somewhat dysfunctional family (his mother killed her own mother in law on his father’s death and Wenceslas was eventually murdered by his brother). Wenceslas was made Saint because of his good treatment of his citizens.

We could all do showing a little more compassion to one another and to ourselves as well.