Writing A Biography
Supposing someone asks you to write a biography. In your younger days, you were close friends with someone who became famous. You want to do justice to her story so people will remember her for a long time.
Readers will want to know how she overcame obstacles. Like other heroines, she stepped into action to support new paradigms, so some people considered her a threat to status quo. Because there was controversy surrounding her life and death, people may read things into what you write. Her humor will not translate easily if the book migrates.
Richness is in the details, so you talk to everyone who knew her. You want to get it right, even though a couple of decades have lapsed. Problem is, she was naturally poetic and her best ideas were shrouded in metaphor. Not everyone has “ears to hear”, so the warp and woof of her story will have to make sense in a concrete way. Mystery bucks at being tethered. God forbid that you would leach out passion in the service of clarity! You recoil at the idea of “dumbing it down”. But, your worst fear is that critics will balk at some of the actual events in her life that sound like myth (myth as in ancient tradition, not as in false). “Contrived” is lethal yet her story borders on epic myth. What a double bind!
Sound familiar? Gospel writers likely felt a huge onus of responsibility in crafting stories about Jesus. Little did they know that their every word would be sliced and diced, volumes of interpretation penned and sermons preached far, far off the original intent.
The Bugaboo Called Syncretism
While battles are fought over word meanings and translations, the bottom line for many concerns myth versus historical fact. For many skeptics, stories of Jesus as a historical figure and myth are mutually exclusive. The name of this dreaded bugaboo is syncretism, fusion of new story with older myth. While some may point to Adonis, Osiris, Dionysius, Mithras, Moses and various Midrash tales and snicker at the similarity between Gospel stories and older legends, this need not cause a crisis in faith. James Fowler’s stage of spiritual development called “post critical naïveté” suggests that there is a road home for spiritual exiles. Having stared down syncretism and upon learning to cherish rich mythic manifestation in Christianity, there is a peace that comes. Our Christian tradition becomes better linked to the earth, tied gracefully to other magnificent stories through the ages abundant with people asking some of our same questions eons before us.
To Marinate; To Resonate
When George Lucus created “Star Wars”, he essentially laid down a template of characters and events based on Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, a composite of international mythic patterns. Lucas’ multi-layered story worked at many levels for children as well as adults. How shall we explain its popularity?
Back to Jesus. That star that shone so brightly so many centuries ago has not sputtered out despite scientific skepticism. Despite heinous connotations attached to Gospel writers’ accounts of Him. We can haggle until the cows come home about what was meant literally and what was not. Or, we can rest. Thinking of Jesus in mythical terms need not rob Him of spiritual significance. Perhaps one of the reasons Jesus resonates is that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John marinated His ideas in oral tradition and cultural history.
CommentsPlease feel free to react to these essays and poems and offer suggestions, including potential topics. Thank You, Katie