Mythquake: Aftershocks (‘Mythquake’ series)

The final section of the Mythquake book-project – a book I know I’ll now never complete, so I’m making it available for anyone who wants it.

The previous chapter, ‘MQ-9: Possession‘, explored what will probably be the source of the most disruptive mythquake that’s hit human society for several thousand years: the notion of personal property and possession.  It’s the key-stone for our entire economics, much of our politics, much of our systems of social relations: yet in terms of physical fact, it has no more foundation than the equally delusory myth of ‘rights’. Dangerous indeed…

Yet if such mythquakes are inevitable, what can we do about them? How can we prepare for them, so as to minimise the damge they would cause? That’s the topic for this final chapter of the book.

This chapter contains the following sections [all notes-only]:

  • Did the earth move for you?
  • Mythquake preparedness
  • Everyone’s a winner

Book-development notes are shown in italics inside square-brackets, [like this]. Further commentary on the development-notes is in ordinary type inside curly-braces, {like this}.


Did the earth move for you?

[Seeing the myths as myths is painful; if we can get beyond that, mythquakes are exhilarating.]

{This section is really just a review of what’s been described through the book, and asking how much of it rang true for the reader. We also want to re-introduce the idea that, for the most part, mythquakes aren’t dangerous, and that if we can learn to trust that they are just natural phenomena of conceptual-space, we can also learn to surf the waves of mythic change – a new kind of extreme-sport, perhaps? 🙂 }

Mythquake preparedness

[Earthquake preparedness » mythquake preparedness (reprise); if we want to minimise the damage, we need to rebuild those stories to create more flexibility when ‘the Big One’ hits.]

{n the same way that we can be prepared for earthquakes, we can also be prepared for mythquakes. Mythquakes are an inevitable fact of human life – but we can design for that fact, and use that design to minimise the impacts and the damage, just as we do for earthquakes. To do this, we need to recognise that the stories we tell ourselves about ‘how the world really’ works are constructs, exactly as buildings are: and we can build flexibility and resilience into those structures of story, just as we can with the structures of buildings in earthquake-prone zones.

The muddled, mistaken notion of ‘possession’ is right at the core of this, and is also the key to design for mythquake-preparedness. Expectations provide a sense of ‘possession’ of certainty – which is what triggers all those everyday upsets. The toddlers’ belief that they ‘possess’ the position of ‘the centre of the universe‘ is what triggers the tantrums of the ‘terrible twos’. Basing our identity and sense of self on work-roles and the like – I am what I do – is a kind of possession of certainty which, if we’re not careful, also possesses us. Much the same is true of politics: whoever you voted for, some government claims to possess the sole truth and sole choice about how the society will work. And we see the same in economics too: the myth that money makes the world go round ultimately depends on an even stranger myth that “possession is nine-tenths of the law”. Each society creates its own definitions of ‘the meaning of life‘ as a means to possess certainty about ‘how the world really works’. ‘Sugar and spice‘ and similar childhood myths about gender and the like are often carried through into the adult world, attempting to enforce possession of societal priority over others’ lives, and even those others themselves. The ‘possession’ may well be as much about assertions of anti-possession – all too often, the cry ‘Let freedom reign!‘ is little more than a demand for a ‘freedom-to-not’ that aims to offload all responsibility onto some unspecified ‘Other’. And finally there is the obsessive grasping for possession as possession – including possession of life itself.

All of those stories of possession, in all their myriad forms, are fictions that we tell ourselves are ‘true’: and whenever Reality Department shows us that they’re not ‘true’ – that they are only fantasies and fallacious fables – that’s when a mythquake will occur. The myth of possession underpins almost everything in our culture: yet it is the cause of mythquakes – not the cure.

To find practical approaches to mythquake preparedness, we will probably need to look outside our own culture. ‘Traditional’ societies with responsibility-based rather than possession-based economies can provide strong suggestions: Australian aboriginal culture, for example, or many of the native-American cultures, or some of the long-lasting peasant-cultures in Europe or Asia. Another useful theme would be the Buddhist notion of ‘non-attachment’ – though we need to remember that non-attachment is also non-detachment, a committed stewardship to and of the respective entity.}

[signs in the sky: analogy of min-min lights as prelude to earthquakes (xref to Paul Devereux’s Earthlights etc).]

{Often there will be precursors to earthquake activity – ‘signs in the sky’ for those who can learn to read them. For example, ‘earthlights’ such as the ‘min-min lights’ of central Australia are frequently associated with pre-earthquake seismic activity – perhaps piezo-electric effects from preliminary rock-movement deep below the surface, though we still don’t know for sure. In other places, animals may change behaviour-patterns immediately before an earthquake: many of the examples are only anecdotal, but some – such as a study of frogs in Italy – have solid scientific confirmation.

The same will be true of mythquakes: there are similar ‘signs in the sky’ the warn of the impending shake-up or or break-up of some carefully-cherished myth. We all know of “the pride that comes before the fall”, the over-certainty that seems to to be an instant magnet for Murphy’s Law, the assertions such as “it’s obvious” or “it must be” that act as cue-phrases for failure. Watching for signs such as these provides a key component of mythquake-preparedness.}

Everyone’s a winner

[Win-win vs win-lose – difficulty of “the only way to win is not to play” (cf. suicide), but we have no choice but to play; only thing we can do is learn how to change the game.]

{The crucial understanding here is that we create the myths, hence we create the conditions for mythquakes. They’re not something that we can ever avoid; but we can learn from them. In that sense, mythquakes are some of our key teachers about the real nature of Reality Department: the ‘lessons’ may sometimes be unpleasant, but everyone wins from each of these learnings.

One of the nastier side-effects of the myth of possession is the lethally-mistaken notion of ‘win/lose’ – that we can only ‘win’ by making someone else ‘lose’. The reality is that whenever that happens, everyone loses: the only way to win that kind of game is to not play. Yet with mythquakes, there is no choice about whether we play: mythquakes are an inherent fact of being human, so the only way to not-play is to not be alive –  which is perhaps not a good idea… The way we win – and the way we help everyone win – is to learn how to let go, learn how to ‘make our moves’ as we surf the waves of mythquakes, creating ever-more-powerful ways to work with the real wonder of the real world.}

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