Light and Myth in Daily Life

The important myths of different cultures have a timeless quality to them. In some cases they have been passed on from one generation to the next for three thousand years or more. Have you ever wondered why these myths have endured for as long as they have? It is because they speak to the mysteries of our soul. Myths help us understand what it means to be human. Like Zeus of Greek mythology, you have probably hurled thunderbolts in moments of great anger. It is likely that you have also played the trickster portrayed by the wily coyote of Native American mythology. And who has not succumbed to the powerful waves of love delivered though cupid’s arrows?

When I was eight years old I had a fascination with flashlights. I would spend much time in my dad’s basement workshop fashioning simple flashlights out of scraps of wood, tin cans, film canisters, or whatever else I could find that would accommodate a battery and small light bulb. I would excitedly take my rudimentary creation to school for show-and-tell where, oddly enough, my classmates would express the same fascination as me.

Why were the flashlights so fascinating to us? I believe they symbolized that tender spark of conscious identity that each of us was trying to nourish. We were like the early cavemen discovering how to create fire for the first time. It was a momentous event. Young children need to know that they can penetrate the darkness and not be overwhelmed by it, that they can protect that flame of life that is their life. The light of consciousness helps us do this.

It is interesting how our lives give expression to the themes of the ancient myths. For example, one Greek myth tells the story of Prometheus. Prometheus was a titan who stole fire from the god Zeus and gave it to mankind. For this arrogant and disobedient act he was given a severe punishment. For eternity he was to be chained to the side of a mountain where each day eagles would feast on the flesh of his liver, and each night his liver would grow back. Symbolically, this myth is saying that we must sometimes break the rules (and suffer pain) in order to grow in consciousness.

When I was in fifth grade this story was re-enacted in my own life, though in a modern and less grand scale. Without my father’s permission I removed his flashlight from the entryway closet of our home and took it to school one day. What it was I hoped to shed light on there I no longer remember. In any event, and to my horror, someone stole the flashlight from my locker. How was I going to explain this to my dad?! So much for discretely placing it back in the closet before he discovered it was gone, which he did a few days later. Fortunately for me, the ending of my saga played out better than it did for Prometheus. My dad never chained me to a mountain and, in fact, I don’t remember getting punished at all. Perhaps he had a Promethean attitude himself when he was young.

I suspect that you have also had some intriguing experiences or dreams related to the theme of light. Take some time to reflect on these and what was going on in your life at the time. Consider sharing your memories and reflections with someone else. You will bring more light to the world, and that would make Prometheus smile.

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