Mythology and The Human Experience

As part of the Greek and Roman Mythology course that I have been following for the last 10 weeks, our teacher Dr. Peter Struck has been drawing out a number of “universal human laws” from the myths.

We read of Odysseus, of Aeneas, of gods, of monsters.  We read material from 7,000 years ago up to 2000 years ago, the poet Ovid in 40AD.  What is it that is held in these stories?  What are the authors communicating to us?

As we explored the stories using various “toolboxes”: Psychoanalysis, Myth and Ritual, Functionalism, and Structuralism.  Each of the “toolboxes” is a different way of interpreting the meaning behind a myth.

Functionalism explains human society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely normscustomstraditions, and institutions.  A functionalist reading of myths might extract the universal human laws.

Here is the list of the Universal Human Laws:

The Universal Human Laws

Parthenon, East Frieze, Slab 4 (Gods)
Parthenon, East Frieze, Slab 4 (Gods), credit: profzucker
  1. Nostalgia is the most powerful force in the universe.
  2. If you want to persuade people you should know your audience.
  3. It’s not good to be food.
  4. A leadership decision means choosing between two bad options.
  5. When you tell a lie, you should keep close to the truth.
  6. Secrecy creates intimacy.
  7. A deep connection with the land is a common human expression.
  8. People at the top of the power structure and people at the bottom of the power structure tend to embrace the idea of teleology (destiny, universe is moving towards a natural order of things).

What do you think of these 8 universal laws?  What strikes you about these 8?  What seems to be missing?

Sorry, gave wrong url in the email… here is the correct link for the 9 Steps to Becoming a Public Speaking Expert 

Are you being lied to?

Are you being lied to?  Yes. Often.

We Enjoy Lies. When we believe a lie, it is because we want to believe the lie.

“Everyone is hungry for something and they will give anything to get it” Pamela Meyer, Liespotting

I met Pamela Meyer at the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation University in Istanbul, Turkey about a month ago.  She spoke about Lie Spotting.  She has spent years working with the FBI to train agents in spotting deception.

She spoke about several clues that FBI agents learn to watch for when they conduct interviews.  You can read more about those clues in her book.  However there was a deeper idea that she left with me.

We Enjoy Lies

Bernie Madoff, $18 Billon fraudster

When we believe a lie, it is because we want to believe the lie.

Lying is a cooperative act. When somebody lies to us and we choose to believe it, we are cooperating with the liar. A great liar is excellent at quickly identifying what it is that you want more than anything. The liar’s lies will help you see yourself closer to the person you wish you were, but that inside you don’t feel that you are.

“Lying is the bridge between reality and our fantasies, between who we are and who we want to be. And it’s a cooperative act. You can only be lied to if you agree to it.” Pamela Meyer

If you are taken in by a financial scheme, it is because the liar has seen that you want to see yourself as a smart, financially savvy person; and you don’t feel that you are. Or it may be that your brother is richer than you and it bothers you, the con-man sees that your need is to feel that you are as good as your brother.

I sat there in the audience in Istanbul and I reflected on the types of fantasies that I have.  What type of person I would like to appear to be?  Where does my fantasy me most differ from my real me?  If a liar tells me that I show excellent discipline and consistency: I want to believe. If a liar tells me that I still look young, strong and healthy; I am prone to believing.  If Bernie Madoff told me that he only allows the elite few to invest, and that he has heard that I am a special person; I am prone to deciding to invest.

Caveat Emptor

It is where our fantasy most diverges from our reality that we will be most open to accepting deception.  What are your fantasies that a liar might use?  What do you want to believe that you are, but inside still have doubts?  Who do you want to love you, but inside wonder whether they do?  What groups do you want to belong to, and inside hope to one day be able to join?  In these situations, you will believe a liar’s deception.