Norms & Nobility, chapter 2, I
The first time I read N&N, this chapter was where the going got tough for me (as best I can recall). This is not a long book, but it is dense with ideas. I had a bit of trouble the first time I read this, and didn't immediately grasp the meaning of "mythos" and "logos" as David Hicks uses the words here. Over time, I have added some other words in the margins that helped me to understand. David Hicks speaks of Mythos and Logos, as Ruth Beechick speaks of Heart and Mind. We could use the words Rhetoric and Philosophy, or Spirit and Logic, or Conscience and Rationality. These two are set at odds with each other, but at the same time, both are a part of the human attempt to understand and interpret the world.
The spirit/heart/mythos side of our nature is educated and informed by story. I loved the line, "A good myth, like a good map, enables the wanderer to survive, perhaps even flourish, in the wilderness." But a second, and equally important aspect of the mythos side of learning is the sense of community and oneness that is created by a group who accept a common mythos.
I'm seeing new (to me) things in N&N in this read-through. Hicks mentions that modern artists and writers, lacking access to a common mythos, make up their own individual symbols and stories, and observers are left to try to understand without a context or common understanding. Without a context, messages become meaningless.
After reading this section, I could not resist returning to another favorite book on education, "The Bible and the Task of Teaching" by David I. Smith and John Shortt. I just skipped to chapter 6, entitled "Once upon a time...," in which the authors say almost exactly the same things as David Hicks. They say
Stories are all around us in our daily lives and are of many kinds, many genres. From very early in life, we meet with fairy tales, fables, folk tales, myths, legends, epics, parables, allegories and many more besides. They have different settings, plot-lines and themes. We listen to them, read them, view them in plays and films, hear them in song, make them up, change them. They make us laugh, cry , reflect, imagine, lose ourselves.
The stories that surround us help to make us what we become. They shape our attitudes to life, form our ideals and supply our visions. They provide us with identity and ways of living. They furnish us with heroes and antiheroes.
And yet, as important as the stories and the mythos are, they are not the all. There is the logos side of man, the rational sense, the desire for order and logic. Which I guess I'll mention next time.