Thursday, 1 November 2012

Hawking on myth

Hawking seemed to be on more solid ground in the next episode in his mini-series when he suggested that science has replaced myth. The program invented a group of Vikings watching a solar eclipse and chanting to chase away the wolf god which they believed was eating the sun. Sometimes myth provides a good source of imagery and it obviously provides insight into the primitive mind. But surely quite often the best reaction is just to say that 'aetiological' myths like the wolf god one are quite stupid and boring, and that the scientific explanations are far richer and more beautiful, even if they often take more mental effort. The prestige of myth in the literary world has declined and you don't get, anything like as often, poems like those of Tennyson that centre on mythical characters. But the 'mythic' is still often accorded more respect than it deserves and this can produce things like the Seren series of novels based on stories from the Mabinogion. The ones I've seen in that series are very poor, and I do think that mythic content is very often a sign of lazy thinking, and often of a kind of unexamined mysticism, and that this kind of writing really isn't representing the contemporary world.