Serenading Stories of the Savior: The Myth That Robs Us of Responsibility by Victoria Cattanach

Serenading Stories of the Savior: The Myth That Robs Us of Responsibility by Victoria Cattanach

Examining ancient fairy-tale myths sheds light on our love of a good hero story. Iron Hans, a Prince banished from his parent’s home after freeing a wild man, moves through hardship to win the hand of the princess, reclaiming his nobility and becoming King. Vasalisa the Wise braves an encounter with the witch Baba Yaga, using intuition to overcome impossible challenges and win fire for her family. These stories use ancient metaphor to light the way, providing humans with wisdom to overcome hardships and reconnect with our inner selves. However, exploring these archetypal themes brings up an interesting cultural shift in the stories we like to be told. As western thought moved away from its agricultural pagan roots, we homogenized around the legend of the ultimate hero, Jesus Christ. Championing the Christian savior allegory destroyed our ancient localized myths centered around personal growth, overcoming individual challenges, and reconnecting to our communities or inner selves. In its place resides a story that fuels our desire for a superhero to save us from current global problems like war, global warming, and political corruption. Reconnecting to myths that empower the individual to step into their own hero journey dethrones the power of the global superhero story’s ability to create apathy and disregard for these modern problems.

Captivating audiences for two thousand years, the story of the New Testament provides a high-stakes drama centering around a supreme, all-powerful being. Beginning with the sacred union of the masculine and feminine (a prevalent cross-cultural theme from our ancient myths) the New Testament offers a magical and miraculous figure to save us from ourselves. However, the first thirty years in which the hero would have trained, studied, made mistakes, and learned how to overcome hardships is noticeably absent from this saga. Holy magnificence casting a long shadow, the important spiritual-growth lessons learned by Jesus along the way disappear in the midst of the hero’s sacrifice for humanity. Ignoring early hardships that the champion faced in order to grow into the world hero is wonderful for our own egos, freeing us of responsibility to perform the same feat of self-actualization. Instead, we can rely on the sacrament and the memory of the sacrificed savior to perform all necessary soul-duties. Penetrating into our collective subconscious is a relatively new idea of the hero journey, a passage from self-deification to martyrdom. The risks and rewards in the New Testament story are only eternal life and the souls of all humanity.

Even in our modern myths, in the dramas we watch on the television and the fables we serenade our children with as we tuck them into bed, the theme of the savior weaves in and out of our fantasies. Gone are the days of the protagonist rescuing a stranded princess in a tower or the village girl overcoming her fear of the woods to save her lover from death. Now, the superhero must help the whole world defend itself from the alien attack, the seemingly average adolescent must recognize her power and save the entire universe from the evil empire. Enhancing the usefulness of these new mythos is the overabundance of large-scale world issues. Increasing levels of connectivity in our modern world stretches this idea of saving the village from the devouring dragon and transforms it into something larger, changing our local mythos into those of worldwide proportions. The metaphors reflecting the problems we face are, in fact, of a worldwide scale. The continued abuse of our planet, corporate greed, and political corruption are just some of the problems that we, as citizens of Planet Earth, are confronted with daily.

The planet does not need one, savior-like hero figure to protect the world from the bad guy. If we were to tell the story of just one superhero figure saving the planet from the evils of environmental loss and sweeping corporate empires then we would only be telling the story of the Jesus-like figure saving the world from our own destruction. Sitting in the safety of our giant homes, with our giant trashcans, giant refrigerators, and giant SUVs we shield ourselves behind our giant television sets from the giant responsibility we face in the looming world crisis. While we espouse the evils of imperialism, war, greed, money, and class disparity we wait on our giant couches for the second coming (or at least the next election) so our hero can lead us into battle against whatever dragon we feel plagues our inner happiness.

What we never realized was that the hero has already arrived. The hero is here. The hero is you. The hero is us. As we sit behind the giant television and wait for someone stronger, someone more qualified, someone with more time, the monster continues to devour our planet, our strength, our happiness, our energy. And this monster isn’t a corporation or a government. The villain isn’t class warfare or racism or misogyny. When we look into the mirror, the villain of our modern fairy-tale looks back. Sitting behind the same giant television set, we hear the whispers in our ears that we can keep our routines, our comfortable habits, our willful ignorance of the greater problems. Serenading our minds with the song of “I”, that sweet lullaby of separate identity, the villain tells us that we need to only worry about ourselves. Weaving a pleasant fantasy where the comforts of our modern lives are more important than the problems plaguing the planet and those we view as “other” is the poison the villain drips in our ears.

Resolving this internal dichotomy between hero and villain requires a deeper connection to nature. This resolution also costs us our apathy. When humans engage with wilderness, we lose the identities created by society. The stories we project outwards, the myths we tell the world about ourselves as doctors or students or mothers or lightworkers or yogis or healers are all lost upon the beautiful chaos of the wild places. The uninhabited landscape does not care if you are a corporate tycoon or a yogi. Each individual has the same opportunities to create relationships with their natural surroundings, to live or to die within vast expanse of our earth. The wildness of nature dispels all of our societal illusions about ourselves, creating an opportunity to deeply connect with our core being underneath the layers of “I” and identity. In shedding the outward identity-fueled story that is told to others we gain the ability to truly engage in our own, personal hero fable. After finding this connection, we will understand that our personal journeys don’t require us to become a superhero. Saving the universe is not a burden placed on one chosen individual. The burden is shared by all. As the hero of our stories, we need only put our time, energy, and heart into those issues, large or small, that call out to us on a deep soul level. Whether it’s raising awareness about a local homeless crisis, building a women’s shelter, or fighting against a corrupt city edict, the small protests and advocacies that call to our hearts can turn into big, lasting change. When every human advocates for one soul issue, our collective awareness will have the power to change current systems.

Allowing ourselves to wait for a Jesus-figure to lead the charge against current problems will be the end to our empowerment and spell doom for the world we love. Letting go of the need for our stories to embody a world-hero and instead embracing myths centered around the growth of the individual (even through seemingly mundane problems) facilitates an energy of activism. One person will not change the world or solve all of the problems. It is the responsibility of every person to become the hero of their individual lives, transforming their awareness and creating a better reality. Reconnecting with nature and engaging in personal activism are the keys to changing our collective earth story from tragedy to triumph.