home > Pastor’s Desk > 2024 > March 1st > THE MYTHICAL PATHWAY TO HAPPINESS

I’ve accidentally found myself enrolled in a Ph.D. program. I kind of blame Associate Professor Stuart Piggin for this. A few years ago I was having some serious discussions with him about doing a Ph.D. in Historical-Theology with Macquarie University focusing on the contribution of Dr. F.W. Boreham. But I found myself unable at that time to proceed. In my discussions with him last year about my health prognosis and what I wanted to be able to do in the remaining time I have left, he suggested focusing instead on Philosophical-Theology and enquiring with Monash University about doing it with them. I took his sage advice and did as he said. This week, after six months of enrolment processes, I actually formally commenced with Monash as a part-time extension (distance) student. The result was that after my first zoom meeting with my supervisor I am now having to delve into an arena which requires me to be able to convince a critical secular audience that my proposal about the Bible’s truth claims are reasonable. Oddly, in order to do this, I have to explain in some depth what C.S. Lewis meant by the word, myth. And to do this I have to draw even deeper on the writings of a now dead French philosopher who is regarded as the greatest exponent of what a myth is! Therefore, I am going to tell you something quite shocking. It might be advisable for you to go and get a strong cup of tea, then return to this screen, and read on while sipping your tea, to absorb some of what I am going to tell you.

 

SOME MYTHS ARE WIDLEY BELIEVED

I used to believe that a ‘myth’ was simply a pointless made-up story that was obviously not true. There are indeed myths that are false but are still believable (this is verified by so many people do believe them). An example of this may be the myth about Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church: In 1633, Galileo was summoned to the Vatican to defend heliocentricity (the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun at the centre of our Solar System). It is believed by that this was a battle between religion and science. But this is a myth. It was a battle between the ‘official’ settled science (based on the unchallenged teaching of the revered Aristotle) and the science based on the new evidence from the recent invention of “telescopes”. Thus, it was not ‘religion versus science’, it was ‘untested-claims versus evidence-based-science’.

There are other false myths, especially when it comes to how to be happy. For example, it is a myth that happiness comes from putting yourself first. (You can actually use the Galileo principle to test this myth.) 

¶ For the despondent, every day brings trouble;
for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.
Proverbs 15:15

 

NOT ALL MYTHS ARE FALSE!

As I began to study the philosophy of myths I have learned that ‘myths’ aren’t necessarily false. A myth is also the term used to describe God intervening into the affairs of humankind. The telling of these moments of divine intersection into human history can be called myths. These stories sound fantastical because they necessarily involve supernatural beings doing supernatural things. When C.S. Lewis (Jack) was a young lad, tragically his mother died of cancer at the age of 45. Lewis’s father emotionally retreated from his son. The young Jack retreated into the world of books – especially mythological books. He appreciated Irish mythology; he liked Greek mythology; but, he loved Norse mythology. By the time he turned 18 he had long abandoned his upbringing as a Christian. Thus, he entered Oxford University as an atheist and graduated with a degree in philosophy. After graduating he was appointed as a tutor in philosophy at Oxford and became friends with several Christians who challenged his atheism. One of those friends was J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis was already beginning to question his atheism as a result of his conversations with his Christian friends, including Tolkien. But it was eventually when he and Tolkien took a famous stroll together that Tolkien asked Lewis, “You enjoy myths don’t you?” “Yes, of course!” Lewis responded. “Have ever considered that Christianity is a myth?” asked Tolkien. “Yes I have” said Lewis. “But have you considered that Christianity is the true myth?” asked Tolkien. The question jolted Lewis. Like a hook in his soul, this question haunted him. The myth of Christianity was unlike any other myth. These other myths – Irish, Greek, and Norse, were clearly not true because they didn’t involve actual historical characters or a specific time in human history. But Christianity, on the other hand, Lewis realised, involved verifiably historic characters and took place in an identifiable location, at a verifiable time in human history. Not long after this question from Tolkien, Lewis reluctantly converted to Christianity, He had accepted the true myth.

 

THE OTHER TRUE MYTHS TO HAPPINESS

If we accept that a true myth is an intervention by God into our history, then perhaps we should also accept that a true myth is when God offers supernatural principles for dealing with difficulties in life — even when these principles seem to be counter-intuitive. For example, when it comes to enjoying true happiness consider the following principles from God’s Word that seem to be counter-intuitive:

INTUITIVE COUNTER-INTUITIVE
1.  In solving life problems, if someone else wins, I must end up losing and this always makes me sad. It is possible for a problem to be solved in a “win-win” fashion where everyone can be happy.
2. If I take time off, then I will not get everything done that I need to, and this makes me sad. Working from rest, rather than resting from work, actually increases your productivity which leads to increased satisfaction which produces happiness.
3. Getting ahead in my business or career requires that I sacrifice time with my family in order to provide what they need to be happy. Most spouses and children would rather have more time with you than your money. You are a far greater source of happiness to your family and this actually increases your likelihood of being happy.
4. I need to achieve all my dreams and goals before I can help anyone else. Interruptions from needy people prevents me from being happy. Giving to others what you actually want invokes God’s law of sowing and reaping in which you are the happy beneficiary.
5. I have to buy it now or I’ll miss out and won’t be able to impress people. This is why I have to go into debt to do it. Delayed gratification, waiting to buy something because you are saving up for it, actually increases your appreciation for the thing eventually purchased which created a sense of happiness in you.

God’s Word provides supernatural wisdom for attaining lasting happiness:

(i) Don’t make happiness your goal in life – instead, make goodness (ie. Christlikeness) your life goal.

(ii) Don’t assume that others are responsible for your happiness – but you can contribute to the happiness of others and in so doing find personal happiness.

(iii) Don’t put yourself first – your true happiness is more likely to come from sacrificially serving and helping others.

(iv) Don’t always be in a hurry – a truly happy person is a very patient person (instead of looking for the smallest line at the supermarket checkouts, stand in the longest one and chill. Try it.)

(v) Don’t be boring. Try new things. Meet new people. Say ‘yes’ to something you would impulsively say ‘no’ to. Interesting people are usually happy people and interesting people usually have a growing list of interests.

Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
happy are those who hold her tightly.
Proverbs 3:18 NLT

Amen.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. kim

    Hmmm, a myth-understanding!

    Reply

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