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Author Topic: The value of fiction and subjectivity  (Read 640 times)

EclecticWheel

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The value of fiction and subjectivity
« on: May 07, 2019, 04:36:20 pm »
I was having a conversation with someone I usually like, but (s)he kind of pissed me off, and I've been trying to analyze why I'm pissed off and what differences of worldview we may have that are leading to my pissed off feelings.  Perhaps I felt that my own values and worldview were being undermined.

I've been exploring both Greek mythology and also reading articles attempting to reconstruct what the religious practices are in the Legend of Zelda game series.  While the friend said there is some value in exploring traditional mythology because at least we get to explore another time period or culture's prejudices, (s)he insists there is absolutely no value in reconstructing a fictional religion.

My friend also tells me that mythology is "not true."

My response tended to be that I am exploring both traditional and fictional mythology in an attempt to self-explore and understand myself better.  Yes, it's all very subjective, and in reconstructing a fictional religion we are dealing with very subjective matters, but what's not to value in that?  Isn't it fulfilling to explore our subjective universes?

The argument boiled down to the whole endeavor in reconstructing a fictional religion is worthless because it's subjective and will only reflect modern prejudices which are uninteresting.  Something is just screaming out to me that I have a completely different worldview and set of values from my friend, which is all well and fine as far as it goes, I'm just trying to understand what the differences are.

I know the friend's worldview revolves around there being objective truth in religious matters and objective values, and if there are no objective values or eternal life then life is meaningless and we may as well all die right now which sounds very dark to me.  I tend to think that even if the world is meaningless, it's not meaningless to us as human beings because we have an instinct to construct meaning, and I'm happy to enjoy that for what it is.

What I'm interested in is discussing and/or pondering is why it might be meaningful to explore a reconstructed fictional religion since that is what is insisted has absolutely no value.  I know this is something I'm happy exploring right now, so that is basically a good enough reason for me.  It also helps me learn something about what values I do hold, and certain symbols are fun to meditate on or associate with different aspects of myself or the world.

I suppose all of this is connected to the legitimacy of pop culture paganism.  What are your thoughts on these matters?
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Klaw

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Re: The value of fiction and subjectivity
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2019, 05:02:49 pm »
I was having a conversation with someone I usually like, but (s)he kind of pissed me off, and I've been trying to analyze why I'm pissed off and what differences of worldview we may have that are leading to my pissed off feelings.  Perhaps I felt that my own values and worldview were being undermined

I personally have no interest in pop culture religious mythology. It would be an interesting hypothetical conversation to discuss if I was familiar with the Zelda world. I had a conversation with a friend recently were it was stated that all mythology has no truth or real value. It was upsetting.

I think though that constructing the religion from a video game could be a problem from the perspective that from writer to writer things change in the story. Just like long running tv shows they change things about character backgrounds to fit a new story plot.

Altair

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Re: The value of fiction and subjectivity
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2019, 06:53:50 pm »
What I'm interested in is discussing and/or pondering is why it might be meaningful to explore a reconstructed fictional religion since that is what is insisted has absolutely no value.  I know this is something I'm happy exploring right now, so that is basically a good enough reason for me.  It also helps me learn something about what values I do hold, and certain symbols are fun to meditate on or associate with different aspects of myself or the world.

I suppose all of this is connected to the legitimacy of pop culture paganism.  What are your thoughts on these matters?

Mixed. On the one hand, I tend to approach pop culture paganism skeptically, principally because the origin is often shallow and commercial. That doesn't mean that one can't develop it to overcome those shortcomings and tap into deeper meanings (perhaps the deeper things that may have inspired the commercial version in the first place). But it's not an easy thing to do.

(As an example of pop culture paganism run amok, I look at the Shrine of Mothra website and cringe...but maybe I'm being too harsh.)

I say that, however, as someone who sometimes envisions goddess and god as Marvel Comics characters--Storm of the X-Men and Prince Namor the First, the Sub-Mariner, respectively. I do not for a second believe they exist as actual deities, but I know I connect with these characters on deep level, going way back to childhood; so for me personally they can function as powerful avatars of the divine.

As for fictional religion--and by that I mean religion that has been created by an identifiable individual--I embrace it. My own religion is exactly that, and I have found the exploration of its mythos to be a profound and enriching spiritual journey. (As a side note, in response to your friend: Of course all myths are false. They're also True. That's the great paradox of myth.) Newly created religion (esp. self-created religion) is not for everyone, though.

So. Mixed.
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Altair

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Re: The value of fiction and subjectivity
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2019, 07:02:07 pm »
I think though that constructing the religion from a video game could be a problem from the perspective that from writer to writer things change in the story. Just like long running tv shows they change things about character backgrounds to fit a new story plot.

I disagree strongly on this; in fact, I think the ever-evolving story makes ongoing pop culture sources *more* valid as a source of myth, not less. Keep in mind that the ancient myths were constantly changing, altered or reinterpreted or added to by the myriad storytellers through whose hands the tales passed, and shifting with changes in their native culture, as they jumped to other cultures, or as influences from other cultures jumped into them. So the many hands constantly shaping video game backstories (or mainstream superhero stories, for that matter) make them more like real myths, not less.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Sefiru

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Re: The value of fiction and subjectivity
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2019, 08:12:18 pm »
My friend also tells me that mythology is "not true."

Urg, my mom is like this. She doesn't get why I'm even interested in Scifi/fantasy, since it's not 'real.'

Quote
Yes, it's all very subjective, and in reconstructing a fictional religion we are dealing with very subjective matters, but what's not to value in that?  Isn't it fulfilling to explore our subjective universes?

Indeed. In fact, I suspect that a lot of the 'malaise of consumer society' or whatever you want to call it, is due to devaluing subjective life in favor of the objective/rational/material. I will have more thinky thoughts on this later and I want to dig up some links, too.

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I know the friend's worldview revolves around there being objective truth in religious matters and objective values, and if there are no objective values or eternal life then life is meaningless

What if there are both objective and subjective truths? (though I have some sympathy for someone who finds subjectivity disconcerting; not being *sure* about things can be frightening.)

Quote
I tend to think that even if the world is meaningless, it's not meaningless to us as human beings because we have an instinct to construct meaning, and I'm happy to enjoy that for what it is.

Agreed; humans are builders. If meaning isn't there when you look for it, make some.

Zlote Jablko

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Re: The value of fiction and subjectivity
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2019, 11:20:05 pm »

What I'm interested in is discussing and/or pondering is why it might be meaningful to explore a reconstructed fictional religion since that is what is insisted has absolutely no value.  I know this is something I'm happy exploring right now, so that is basically a good enough reason for me.  It also helps me learn something about what values I do hold, and certain symbols are fun to meditate on or associate with different aspects of myself or the world.

I suppose all of this is connected to the legitimacy of pop culture paganism.  What are your thoughts on these matters?

Well, I wouldn’t practice the religion of Zelda. However, I have reflected a bit on fictional world mythologies, like that of Forgotten Realms or Tolkien’s Silmarillion. I think there can be some mystery to those, because we know that, in recent times, only fiction writers were likely to record mythic ideas. Until recently, there was no outlet for would-be visionaries to voice mythological thoughts other than fiction, or perhaps psychology. So it’s possible that some valuable stuff was deposited in fictional works.

Another thing about these fictional mythologies is that they are fairly modern. They can give us insight into what a modern pantheon might look like. All could be a source of inspiration. On the other hand, I also consider ancient tradition to be priceless insight into the divine, taken from many generations of visionaries. So while I personally would not completely break from tradition, I do see some value in fiction.

Uneryx

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Re: The value of fiction and subjectivity
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2019, 11:45:53 pm »
My friend also tells me that mythology is "not true."

My response tended to be that I am exploring both traditional and fictional mythology in an attempt to self-explore and understand myself better.  Yes, it's all very subjective, and in reconstructing a fictional religion we are dealing with very subjective matters, but what's not to value in that?  Isn't it fulfilling to explore our subjective universes?

The argument boiled down to the whole endeavor in reconstructing a fictional religion is worthless because it's subjective and will only reflect modern prejudices which are uninteresting.  Something is just screaming out to me that I have a completely different worldview and set of values from my friend, which is all well and fine as far as it goes, I'm just trying to understand what the differences are.

Yes - you and your friend are operating from different base assumptions.

It blew my world open once I realized that the non-Christian people I knew were operating on an entirely different wavelength than I was. I had lived my entire life with the fundamental worldview assumption that there was a divine creator, the present world would eventually end and God would hit the reset button, humans were inherently flawed and we all had a divine purpose. It blew my mind and took a LOT of mental unpacking to understand why other people did NOT think these things were true.

Your friend sounds like a hard materalist, and that's fine. What she thinks is ultimately unimportant to what you think, as your religion is for you, although I can understand the discomfort with someone having a completely different concept of how the world operates. It's like someone insisting the sky is orange.

As for the value of fiction, I don't think something has to be an accurate historical or scientific record to be valuable. Especially myths.  Just because something is told figuratively doesn't mean it isn't true. Consider what Death says in the excellent Terry Pratchett book "Hogfather" about fiction and fantasy:

Quote
“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

"They're not the same at all!"

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"

MY POINT EXACTLY.”

Something needn't be objectively, provably, materially true to be true. Love, kindness, justice, honor... they're all things that the majority of humans would say are real and true and good, but they're not objective. Similarly, myths and stories aren't "real" in the sense that the people mentioned and the events described actually happened historically, but they're "real" in that the themes conveyed, the emotions evoked and the truths understood are experienced.

Stories, especially fiction, have a way of cutting through people's defenses. Generally, people don't like being lectured or preached at or having a bunch of facts shoved at them, but they love a story.  Don't tell them that garbage is choking the planet and making it unlivable, show them cute robots in love trying to save a planet overrun by garbage. Don't tell them that making friends and being nice to them is important, show them colorful cartoon horses who embody the qualities you want to convey. Don't tell them that wit and cleverness are often better than violence, show them a clever character outsmarting the violent antagonists.

Fiction is fucking awesome. You can change some minds with facts and figures. But if you want to change hearts, tell stories.




Allaya

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Re: The value of fiction and subjectivity
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2019, 10:15:53 am »
(As an example of pop culture paganism run amok, I look at the Shrine of Mothra website and cringe...but maybe I'm being too harsh.)

Vote for way too harsh.

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It is my belief that all gods and goddesses are, inherently, fictional, as they are interpretations of the energy which is life and which can be used towards different means with one's willpower.  Humans choose to interpret this power as beings: gods and goddesses.  Therefore, no one deity is more real than another, and the Christian god, the Triple goddess, Bastet, Athena, Mothra, and all the others, are only as real as we choose to make them.

That's a pretty solid stance to me.
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EclecticWheel

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Re: The value of fiction and subjectivity
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2019, 08:25:15 pm »
I disagree strongly on this; in fact, I think the ever-evolving story makes ongoing pop culture sources *more* valid as a source of myth, not less. Keep in mind that the ancient myths were constantly changing, altered or reinterpreted or added to by the myriad storytellers through whose hands the tales passed, and shifting with changes in their native culture, as they jumped to other cultures, or as influences from other cultures jumped into them. So the many hands constantly shaping video game backstories (or mainstream superhero stories, for that matter) make them more like real myths, not less.

I had this in mind as well.  Furthermore some fans like to reconcile discrepancies between the Zelda story lines, thereby adding more layers of meaning and interpretation to the stories.  It's also possible to let the discrepancies stand as they are: mythology and the bible contain these as well.

I'm not interested in reconstructing any religion real or fictional for personal practice, but I have my reasons for exploring this topic.  I grew up with these games and stories.

I appreciate the Greek myths and experience a connection to them, but I didn't grow up with them like I did with Zelda.  I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do with all this knowledge in practice, but I know I want to utilise the knowledge to explore my inner landscape.

Taken at face value the games *may* be superficial.  Maybe.  But add to it the interpretations, meaning, stories, and fan fiction people have derived from it, not to mention its evolving and ongoing nature, and there is quite a lot to work with depending on what one wishes to do.

I'm still figuring out how to do what I want to do.  It may be easier in my case to take a psychological, symbolic, even magical approach depending on how one understands magic.

But I don't see why self-inner exploration cannot be done via these means.  If that is the aim then I don't believe that is superficial.  Nor does it in principle conflict with engaging with tradition in one's other practices or studies.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

arete

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Re: The value of fiction and subjectivity
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2019, 05:32:52 am »
I was having a conversation with someone I usually like, but (s)he kind of pissed me off, and I've been trying to analyze why I'm pissed off and what differences of worldview we may have that are leading to my pissed off feelings.  Perhaps I felt that my own values and worldview were being undermined.

I've been exploring both Greek mythology and also reading articles attempting to reconstruct what the religious practices are in the Legend of Zelda game series.  While the friend said there is some value in exploring traditional mythology because at least we get to explore another time period or culture's prejudices, (s)he insists there is absolutely no value in reconstructing a fictional religion.

My friend also tells me that mythology is "not true."

My response tended to be that I am exploring both traditional and fictional mythology in an attempt to self-explore and understand myself better.  Yes, it's all very subjective, and in reconstructing a fictional religion we are dealing with very subjective matters, but what's not to value in that?  Isn't it fulfilling to explore our subjective universes?

The argument boiled down to the whole endeavor in reconstructing a fictional religion is worthless because it's subjective and will only reflect modern prejudices which are uninteresting.  Something is just screaming out to me that I have a completely different worldview and set of values from my friend, which is all well and fine as far as it goes, I'm just trying to understand what the differences are.

I know the friend's worldview revolves around there being objective truth in religious matters and objective values, and if there are no objective values or eternal life then life is meaningless and we may as well all die right now which sounds very dark to me.  I tend to think that even if the world is meaningless, it's not meaningless to us as human beings because we have an instinct to construct meaning, and I'm happy to enjoy that for what it is.

What I'm interested in is discussing and/or pondering is why it might be meaningful to explore a reconstructed fictional religion since that is what is insisted has absolutely no value.  I know this is something I'm happy exploring right now, so that is basically a good enough reason for me.  It also helps me learn something about what values I do hold, and certain symbols are fun to meditate on or associate with different aspects of myself or the world.

I suppose all of this is connected to the legitimacy of pop culture paganism.  What are your thoughts on these matters?
Pop culture paganism is great, in my opinion. I use fiction paganism. I really disagree with your friend.

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