Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Myth, Mysticism & Dogma

Even though there were Greeks and Romans who did not take their myths for literal truth, the existence of those myths defined societies and civilizations, binding people into communities that shared a culture. So, too, I think, does Star Trek create communities by virtue of its “humanist mythos” (13, 3). Being centered in humanist mythology rather than a specific, earthly religious mythology gives greater appeal to this saga, I think, because it is all-inclusive. Nearly anyone can reconcile personal feelings about the sacred and the profane with a storyline that deals only with fictional religions and fictional characters. The love of a series like Star Trek transcends some of the deepest dividing lines in American society—politics, and, dare I say it, religion.

I am fascinated by Gene Rodenberry’s apparent deftness with myth, however. I feel like the term “myth” carries with it a certain element of mysticism. As the article says, after all, “insofar as myths seek meaning, they seek a different kind of meaning from that codified in doctrines, theologies, and catechisms” (4). Myth is a separate thing from dogma, in other words. Myth connotes spirituality, tradition, ritual; these are things associated with mysticism, I think. Star Trek has so many cultures and beings, some more religious than others, and yet, because of the humanist element to the show, orthopraxy seems a lot more important than orthodoxy. On the other hand, would anyone want to watch a show about people arguing about the doctrinal truths upholding the universe? There probably wouldn’t be enough fiction in that. Therefore, it seems quite sensible that mysticism should be more important dogma in Star Trek, but can the d-word be completely avoided? Like myth, it orders a “chaotic universe” (6). I haven’t watched enough Star Trek to be able to theorize any more beyond that.

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