Mythology, Story Telling and Einstein

In an ‘amoral’ Universe that is neither moral nor immoral, Mythology or Mythic story telling is the attempt of our imagination to comprehend our existence in moral terms. Or moral contradictions
Our Mythology, our Mythic selves are much more than the idea of the stories that are/were told to us. We are the very stories that we tell ourselves. And always have been. From the time we were born. From the time that Human beings started to imagine.
The first art was the art of story telling.
From the time that Man tried to express lightning and thunder as the anger of the Gods and developed moral stories around it, to the postulations of Einstein’s theory’s of relativity, the beginings have been in a story told to oneself, and then shared. Stories which comes from a deep seated mythology embedded in our consciousness.
Stories are moral contradictions, re interpreted again and again. The Universe itself exists in contradictions, and the contradictions are never ending. When you solve one contradiction, another emerges. And so the Universe goes on. If the contradictions went away – the Universe would cease to exist. As would we, as would all imagination. We would cease to exist, and yes, the ultimate contradiction that we exist and do not exist at the same time is the most tantalizing contradiction of all.
So if you cannot do away with contradictions, how do you come to terms with them ? By finding Harmony in them. By being the contradiction itself. By becoming ‘one with the duality’ as Buddha and all the great spiritualists say. And so the great poet finds Harmony in the contradiction of words, the mathematician finds harmony in the contradiction of numbers ( with the concept of a non number of nothingness, the zero, being the ultimate contradiction without which modern maths could not exist). The great Musicians find Harmony in the contradiction of notes, the painters in conflicting colours, and spiritualist in the duality of existence. And Einstien searched for Harmony through his equations in the contradictions of Space and Time.
Einstien too was looking for a story to explain mythic concepts like Space and Time. He called them equations but hey ! – he was indulging in his own story telling – his own Mythology.
The above was a part of a discussion I led on ‘Mythology and Story telling’ at a Screenwriting workshop at the IIT campus in Chennai, which was a lot of fun,
And Einstein.

32 Responses to “Mythology, Story Telling and Einstein”

  1. Amrit says:

    Ah – so you were in my campus! Nice! 🙂

  2. keshav says:

    Very good abstract story of contradictions, and deconstructing contradictions. Hats off!

  3. Shekhar – Good to have you back. You sure seemed to have had great fun there.
    Surely there is contradiction only when there is an individualis is it not? The essence of all contradiction is rooted with the belief of being separate. The observed and observer being one and the same is but the only reality is it not?. An individual exists only by falsifying what is Real. Everything that comes associated with such an individual is but naturally in contradiction. I tend to look at Mythology as collective human memory too. Memory that excites the foundation of separateness and keeps it going , isnt it? I am sure you will find the following vid interesting if you havent seen it yet –
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyyjU8fzEYU

  4. Ritu says:

    Harmony in contradictions…. hmmm…I like the idea. You have put a seed. I am going to play with it today.
    Good to see you back and wish I could have attended the session in IITB. I had some theories I have discovered on mythology, it purpose and evolution. Shall get back with that later. For now I shall strum the music of contradictions. 🙂
    Welcome back and cheers!

  5. Indigo Nyx says:

    Very interesting thoughts there Shekhar. Takes me back to Rushdie’s HAROUN AND THE SEA OF STORIES. 🙂

  6. Koizen says:

    Welcome back sir! missed you
    Why do you say first art was the art of story telling?
    Don’t you think that the first art was more of a personal exploration? Personal exploration of Siddhardha…of Einstien…or anybody
    If a story teller does not know him/herself how can he tell a story? Did you say this because of seminar?
    I always wanted to ask you one question sir…regarding these seminars…
    Do you think seminars help with form of story? because you have been into many seminars with many story tellers.
    I realized that a story teller tells a story – good , bad or ugly but and the judge can only comment it is good or bad or ugly but no judge will be able to help with the form…
    A judge or jury can only tell about format but not form…
    My question is…can story telling be thought? Can others decode the form of story in just one seminar? Can a judge or jury based on just 5 minutes decide what a story teller is trying to conceive for long time? Do judge and jury in those seminars test the story teller by telling exactly opposite things to shake their belief?

  7. Phani says:

    Beautiful!!!

  8. rahul says:

    “”””By becoming ‘one with the duality’ “”””””
    Seriously i don’t understand this. How can u say that “i am hungry and also i am not hungry” u need to choose one. also one is “1” and duality in this case more than one may be “2”. How is 1 equal to 2.
    Or may be u r talking about MAYA here. So what do u choose MAYA or “THE ONE”.
    Any ways welcome back after solitary confinement.

  9. AJ says:

    Welcome Back
    Strange coincidence
    I was listening …
    Albert Einstein was very much criticised by Hitler, and Hitler actually had a group of 100 top scientists in Germany write a book called 100 scientists against Einstein.
    Einstein said: `It doesn’t take 100 scientists to prove me wrong, it takes a single fact’

  10. Cinda says:

    Fascinating walkabout you were on…
    Contradiction, opposites, duality?
    ever look at a spinning coin?
    it appears to be whole and sphere like…hmmm
    if you were to only see the coin in its spinning state, one would see only the whole sphere
    if it were to come to a rest, one would observe there are two sides, although they may seem opposite, they are essential of the whole
    are they not?
    perhaps they are not opposite at all…just part of a whole…
    hmmm,
    Cinda

  11. Cinda says:

    Shekhar,
    your presence was missed, I am thankful for your return here,
    Cinda

  12. Sidhusaaheb says:

    A screenwriting workshop at an IIT campus? That’s a bit of a condradiction in itself. 😀

  13. Ritu says:

    Deepak, that link was tremendous. I recommend everyone to go through it. In a way I know what she is talking about. When I was in college I went through very serious allergy that got me into the ICU. And for a day I was in the state of delirium. The mind is very very active in such times. And it feels really light in the head and the body. It is a very comfortable feeling. Cannot explain. I remember seeing the big and scared eyes of the junior doctor who was checking me out before I fainted and I couldn’t understand why he was so scared.Physically, I was more comfortable than I was few hours back when I was not in hospital!
    I never gave much thought to that episode till today. Now I think it is true when she says that physical suffering is the greatest gift that a human can get. I understand why every culture talks about inflicting the body with pain to achieve a higher state of being. It not only expands your entire horizon by a factor comprising of multiple zeros it gives you glimpses of a state that you never ever get otherwise. There is an energy that suffering generates that cleanses you. I was blessed to get that very often earlier in my life due to debilitating asthama (yes thank the Delhi pollution).
    That leads me to another thought that pops in and out of my head once in a while. Are people with so called mental illnesses actually experiencing something in the brain that we normal people don’t? After all there is a concept of religious and spiritual madness that is prevalent through the sufi philosophy.
    Any thoughts anyone. Has anybody else ever explored that line of thought?

  14. shivani singh says:

    shekhar, missed you. like the way you are just back, without any explanations re yr absence. panache at its best!
    what we call mythology could well be history. just because there is no objective proof, we can not totally disregard, for example that ram and krishna happened. and stories like their’s have to be told, not necessarily to just explore our duality but just because great stories find great writers, like tulsidas.
    i love the way you have talked about contradictions…the quest continues in us all to find that which is already there. little do we realise that the veil is in our eyes and ears, not out there.
    love, shivani

  15. brahmastra says:

    Yes, the gentle art of story telling should be learnt from pal Danny Boyle. The recent MTV Movie Awards started with a remix of the famous SDM scene with the american host taking a dive into the potty, and then saying something like..’I was just in India and this..’ to an applause from the audience.
    And it seems the psychotic Boyle is going to make another underbelly movie based on India’s shady nightlife. And the pseudos will once again applaud at the apparent depth and honesty of the movie while ignoring the fact that these movies are a sadistic attempt to malign India’s image in the west where stereotyping is easy fodder for the amateur minds. Boyle has now found a terrific formula to capitalize on. Give the west a reason to feel good about themselves while pitying others, and give the eastern pseudos a reason to feel good about themselves by providing them attention of any sort.

  16. brahmastra says:

    Pain and pleasure are both energetic configurations that prepare the body for the ultimate non-dual state. Only through the prescribed amount of experiences and fallacies thereof will the mind gradually awaken from the illusion into the real.

  17. Raunaq says:

    Thank you, sir for coming. Wish you had spoken more 🙂

  18. Nimit Jain says:

    Hope you had a great time in the IIT Campus.

  19. Hi Shekhar,
    After your lecture on Mythic story telling at the Screenwriting workshop,I.I.T, Chennai, I had a question as to how mythology and history were related and whether Elizabeth was history or mythology.Your answer was they were always co-related, that one followed the other.
    After contemplation over the statement I still don’t get as to what extent one can interpret History.
    Mythology yes, as you said for eg taking Mahabharata, one can tell the story from Draupadi’s point of view or Kunti’s point of view or even Sita’s point of view. But where history is concerned, as a story teller, can I interchange the characteristics of Mahatma Gandhi and Hitler?

  20. Ritu says:

    Geeta, I think mythology is nothing but a way of analyzing history. It is a view of history. History is bare fact. Mahatma Gandhi existed and he did ‘X’, ‘Y’ ‘Z’. That is history. Mythology through it’s mechanism of story telling then picks up this bare fact that is history and analyzes it, absorbs it and then projects a view that helps in propagating a stream of thought.
    So taking the same example of Mahatma Gandhi. When we study about the Quit India movement in history books, that is history. When Kavi Pradeep composes a song like ‘De di hamen aazaadi… sabarmati ke sant’ (from the film Jagriti) it is mythology. This is a very good example of how History becomes mythology. So in that vein I would say Shekhar’s Elizabeth is mythology not history.
    P.S I know you addressed it to Shekhar, hope you wouldn’t mind my interjecting

  21. shekhar says:

    dear Geeta, there is an event that gets recorded in history, and the attempts to connect the dots between events are often interpretations. nd when you go back as far in history as Elizabeth even the recording of the event becomes fuzzy. The Spanish Armada was historical fact, but there are so many interpretations of the reasons for the loss of the Armada – each one over the years has become more interpretational by encompassing national pride.
    It is probably fact the Elizabeth bore no children. But the idea that she was a virgin is an interpretation promoted by Elizabeth herself and modern historians as ell a whole nation has become addicted to what is a moral idea, as history.

  22. Thanks for your response Shekhar. Think I got you clear this time.
    But tell me, does this apply to Science aswell-say, Space and Universe.To what extent can one interpret the proven facts and the unknown?

  23. Deepak R says:

    Ritu, what you say echoes with my personal experience as well. Isn’t ‘madness’ one of the many labels the human ‘mind’ tries to fit around a basic experience that escapes words. You see it is the mind’s compulsive need to judge a memory. You seem to have had a strong memory of an experience that you can’t put many words to. How can you give shape to something that is beyond the language of the mind? The moment you bring that into the realm of words, debate, expression , the compulsive need to label it and box it up follows, along with it the fear of judgement by the others. The rational world that we build around us does not accept this easily.
    Some of us are fortunate to be blessed with poverty and pain. In their own natural way they keep the mind in its limited place.They allow for the recognition and acceptance of life ‘the way it is now’ to happen more easily.
    If am not sure if it was Osho who said, ‘A Buddha can’t but be misunderstood’. The simple profoundity of the basic experience as Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and others explain finds its echo with some in whom the urge to question reality sows a seed. Life seeks to recognise itself through some in this way as well.
    Rumi said something beautiful:
    I have lived on the lip of insanity
    Wanting to know reasons
    Knocking on a door, it opens
    I have been knocking from the inside!

  24. It was good to read this post Shekhar. I attended the workshop and found it extremely energising, and this was really enhanced by your presence.
    Can I respond to Geeta’s question about science –
    To what extent can one interpret the proven facts and the unknown?
    It is not about interpreting proven facts – progress in science is largely by consensus, peer reviews and so on – so virtually the one who shouts loudest gets heard and added to the flock.
    Periodically newspapers publish reports about how Einstein was wrong etc – This is not what interpretation is about – Rather we can say interpretation is born when science communication is clouded by a space charged with power games. For example, the story of green petroleum when suggested by Ramar Pillay (a small guy in Tamil Nadu) roused such furor among the scientific flock – Ramar Pillay may have been wrong, yes, but the truly scientific way to prove that was not by dismissing him derisively, rather to quantitatively prove him wrong.. that spirit – when it dies – lends the ambivalence of “interpretation” to something that must be at best a debate.

  25. austere says:

    One of my earliest memories at maybe 4 yrs was telling a story, “Ye Ram ka ghar hai. Ismey Sita rehti hai”
    What has changed with the years?
    I still whittle down to what I can understand.
    Within my frames of reference.
    Until such time I see an exception and all frames go for a toss. Then it gets interesting.

  26. Ritu says:

    Brahmastra : Could you elaborate? I am getting a feel for what you are saying
    Deepak: Rumi’s verse has sent me into a tizzy. It’s like someone discovering they are schizophrenic 🙂
    Keep the nuggets flowing!

  27. mee says:

    Sounds much fun Shekhar. I think many more from the creative world could do with tips on great story telling to begin with. And everyone has a story to tell for sure:)

  28. brahmastra says:

    Ritu, its just another theory..forget it. Anyway, i am speaking from the point of view of the ultimate goal. As some seekers like Nietzsche have said and the realized ones as Osho and such profess, heaven is the next step to hell, figuratively speaking. Suffering can be justified from any angle, but then, we are all of a non-dual nature at the core, and deep down everything has to make sense in the bigger picture. So every experience will only broaden acceptance and non-judgement. And of course this will be justified by scientific nuts and bolts as well.

  29. maya says:

    what bunkum
    all this duality and singular
    yaar come out of this and do some work

  30. Shihn Daljit says:

    Without God no one can escape from the miseries of life.
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    You just have to know the Godly Truth (Ishwarea Sat) with understanding and acceptance . Later on visualise Jyoti
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  31. Thanks for sharing such nice information here. I like very much the great thoughts of shekhar. I appreciate his thoughts. Well I like this site and will visit this site in future too.

  32. That is much fun Shekhar. That could be great tips for everyone, since everyone has a story to tell.

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