Collaboration with Mars by Damon Soule
I have restricted myself to check news online twice per day (two ten minute sessions) - otherwise I feel my brain gets eaten by the flickering of images, headlines, and stories. "Kidnapped victims found decapitated"; "Amputee trown out of roller coaster to his death"; "Sex bomb answers answers claims of botox use"; "Meet Mince (3), the two-headed albino snake"; "Knife robbery at McDonald's," are some of today's headlines in a leading national newspaper. One has to be very strong to navigate through the headlines without being lured into the sweet embrace of the sirens of flash news. I know a few people (no names mentioned) who wake up from the embrace only to see that most of the day has gone, and they swear never to be seduced again, until next morning...
Joseph Campbell is one of my heroes. He was a scholar of mythology and comparative religion and was highly skeptical of mainstream media and the focus of daily news:
Campbell interview by Tom Collins, 1986
So, dear reader, I would like to invite you to read a more timeless kind of story with me today. I can neither promise images of naked breasts nor juicy details of a football star's (a family man, dear God!) sordid affair with a Big Brother star. It is much more satisfying than that. This is a story to sustain your being in a time were chaos and complexity seems to be the background music of our lives.
It is a tale that has been dancing in the back of my mind since the day I fell into it perhaps fifteen years ago while reading one of Campbell's books on mythology. It is the Hindu story Samudra Manthan - about the churning of the universal sea of milk.
|The gods and anti-gods churning the cosmic sea for the butter of immortality|
Once upon a time - at the beginning of the history of the universe - the gods (devas) and their arch-enemies the anti-gods (asuras) were engaged in one of their eternal battles. They decided to take a little breather from their fighting and undertake a common task: to churn the Milky Ocean for its butter of immortality (amrita).
To churn the cosmic, milky sea demands sturdy tools. The devas and asuras looked around and decided to use the Cosmic Mountain (mount Mandranchal) as their churning-spindle and the Cosmic Serpent (Vasuki) as a twirling-rope. They wrapped Vasuki around Mandranchal and started their churning - the devas and asuras pulling at each end of Vasuki.
The devas and asuras quickly found that the mountain was too heavy; it threatened to sink into the sea. To their good fortune they were assisted by the god Vishnu who transformed into his turtle incarnation, Kurma, and swam under the mountain, supporting it on its back. The churning could continue. (The picture above gives a wonderful impression of the whole event - notice brave, little Kurma supporting the cosmic mountain on his back.)
|Shiva drinking poison|
When called upon, Shiva was moved with great compassion. He took the poisonous bluish-black cloud into his begging bowl and drank the poison. His sweetheart Parvati was alarmed: "No, Shiva, no!!" - she hurled herself towards him and clenched her hands around his neck to stop the poison from its further journey into his body. The poison was stopped in his throat, coloring it forever blue. It was thus that Shiva got the name Nilakanta or Blue Throat.
After Shiva had performed his glorious, selfless deed, the devas and asuras could return to their work. They churned and they churned until one day - lo and behold! - all kinds of gems started to float up from the ocean: the moon, the sun, an elephant with eight trunks, a glorious horse, various medicines, and finally a radiant vessel filled with the ambrosial butter of immortality- the amrita.
I love this story because it is hopeful - it's not a conservative story telling us to return to "old ways", "old religion" or nationalism when we are scared. It is an invitation to see that out of the seeming complexity and chaos comes new life - richer, tastier life.
As Joseph Campbell said of this story:
This old Indian myth I offer as a parable for our world today, as an exhortation to press on with the work, beyond fear.Whenever I am scared or confused, I think about this story. I even think about it when I am happy.
ps. For those of you addicted to news - here is an article work reading: Overcoming News Addiction by Steve Pavlina