"It’s only recently that I’ve come to understand that writers are not marginal to our society, that they, in fact, do all our thinking for us, that we are writing myths and our myths are believed, and that old myths are believed until someone writes a new one .. . I think it’s a beginning for authors to acknowledge that they are myth-makers and that if they are widely read, will have an influence that will last for many years — I don’t think that there’s a strong awareness of that now, and we have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted."
And that's pretty damned important. As myth expert Joseph Campbell said:
"Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is."
For what it's worth, Campbell is with Vonnegut on this one:
“Myth must be kept alive. The people who can keep it alive are the artists of one kind or another.”
**And what is myth? The elemental stories that bind, that convey our common collective consciousness, and that resonate as our inner truths.
According to Campbell:
Bill Moyers: I came to understand from reading your books - The Masks of God or The Hero With A Thousand Faces, for example - that what human beings have in common is revealed in myths. Myths are the stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance. We all need to tell our story and to understand our story. We all need to understand death and to cope with death, and we all need help in our passages from birth to life and then to death. We need life to signify, to touch the eternal, to understand the mysterious, to find out who we are.
Joseph Campbell: People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about, and that's what these clues help us to find within ourselves.Bill Moyers: Myths are clues?
Joseph Campbell: Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.
Bill Moyers: What we are capable of knowing and experiencing within?
Joseph Campbell: Yes.
Bill Moyers: You changed the definition of a myth from the search for meaning to the experience of meaning.
Joseph Campbell: Experience of life. The mind has to do with meaning. What's the meaning of a flower. There's the Zen story about a sermon of the Buddha in which he simply lifeted a flower. There was only one man who gave him a sign with his eyes that he understood what was said. Now, the Buddha himself is called "the one thus come". There's no meaning. What's the meaning of the universe? What's the meaning of a flea? It's just there. We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it's all about.