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The Truth about Myths

I believe there is no such thing as a stupid question; what seems very simple is often profound as well.

I used to teach a bridging course in ESL. The next step for my students was to take high school English, and so I was teaching literature. At the beginning of this course of studies, we examined myths from various cultures. I used to show a National Film Board film called “Salmon People” which told a story of the Tsimshian people of the west coast of Canada.

In this story, Raven takes Salmon as his woman. She agrees to stay with him as long as he shows her respect. Naturally he begins to take her for granted. One day she is combing his hair with her fish-bone comb and it gets caught in one of the tangles. Without thinking, he strikes her in anger. Then she calls all her people to her and they depart, leaving him alone and hungry.

The film draws a parallel with our modern treatment of salmon as an industrial resource rather than as a precious gift and suggests this is why the salmon are leaving us today.

A young man in my class asked if this story was true, and many of the other students laughed at his “stupid” question, but I am still pondering its depth many years later.

Of course the story is true. It tells one of the deepest and simplest truths of the human heart.

I think we need to reexamine and understand the truth of our own myths. Science may laugh at them, but wisdom may prove them true.

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