Re: virus: Parables

Bill Godby (
Mon, 28 Oct 1996 10:18:41 -1000

Richard Brodie wrote:
> Ken Pantheists asked whether I thought expressing memes as parables
> would help bypass cynicism.
> I wholeheartedly agree, and in fact have taken a sharp turn in my
> writing career in that direction. I am studying storytelling, NLP, and
> magick (please don't flame me if you don't know what magick is) and plan
> to create storybooks that communicate more effectively than the
> nonfiction I have been writing.

A interesting addition to this topic is the consideration of myth and
its role in translating memes. I am particularly fond of Joesph
Campbell's work and am a strong believer in the function of mythology,
which is really what we're talking about with parables and stories. The
idea is that they are a medium for translating those things, i.e.
ideas/concepts (memes) that don't lend themselves easily to language.
Those things which are related to beliefs about oneself, and ones place
within the cosmos. The basic component of the myth is metaphor, it is
the tool through which these ideas can be translated. Campbell speaks of
the Big Bang as a modern day version of an origin myth, it is what
explains to our society where we came from and it makes sense within our
framework of knowledge. The book of Genesis should also be considered
within this context, as would any origin myth, Campbell suggests that it
addresses a much different world than the what we inhabit now and that's
why it's so difficult to relate to. Those ideas it translates, which are
universals of human experience, morality, ethics, etc. are more
appropriately translated in contemporary myths, and of course are
related by metaphorical mechanisms that make sense to the world we
inhabit. Contrary to what some might presume, Science is also a major
component within this framework and isn't necessarily oppositional to
myth, rather it is complementary. The idea here is not to become
obsessed with truth, whether this one is right or wrong, which
completely skews the issue, but rather what does the myth/story/parable
tell you, and how, in relation to the society in which it exists. In
this context I believe that we should consider television as as one of
the more predominant means through which contemporary mythologies are
played out, certainly in the sense of pure numbers (viewers/consumers).
I think one can easily see how moral and ethical issues, as well as
constructions of social consciousness, are components of modern
television programming, sharing the same traits as does myth.

There's much more to say on this, but for now I basically wanted to
briefly share my perspective on the topic of stories and parables and
how they seem to be more effective in translating certain ideas.

Bill Godby
University of Hawaii-Manoa
Anthropology Department