The myths we carry
July 23, 2005

A series of random, synchronous events have colored the last few days... 


It seems like I've been encountering "cityscape palimpsests" a lot this week, first reading of them and discussing them in the blog of sartorias, and discussing them in my own blog. Then last night as I stood in line at Sav-on the cashier started discussing with the woman in front of me how different Lincoln Boulevard used to be in the old days.  

"Like how?"

"Well, there used to be open fields all around here."

"And," I found myself saying with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, "there used to be stables here." 

So of course I had to talk about the stables from my extreme youth which occupied the exact spot on which we stood in line. 


I went to late lunch-early dinner at Panini, my favorite coffee shop in Marina del Rey, across the way from Sav-on. It is situated just about where I rode English saddle for the first (and last) time in the opening ceremonies of a gymkhana. I was a good rider (for a five year old) on Western saddle with specially shortened stirrups, but I did not like that English saddle. The rider in front of me led the horse I sat on (stuck into the saddle to capture the adorable factor), but I got bored halfway through the ceremonies and decided to slide off the horse and get out of there. Much hilarity ensued in the crowd, followed by much horror as I wove in and out of the legs of the horses. The horses were very patient and I emerged unscathed. 


At the coffee shop I read The Philosophers' Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination by Patrick Harpur. I've been reading it on and off for months and months. It's a fascinating book, but I don't seem to get to it much, what with all the other reading and writing. It's become my default Saturday afternoon at the coffee shop book. The section I picked up on today talked about the myths we humans carry around with us.  

"Myths," says Harpur, "are imaginative templates which, when laid over the world, make sense of it. We cannot think without them, because they provide the structures which determine the way we think in the first instance." 

These myths include not just the obvious—one's spirituals beliefs, et al.—but such things as the analytical method, societal norms, national identity, etc., etc. They are all a form of myth, all part of how we define ourselves and the filters through which we see the world around us. If you were from Papua New Guinea, for instance, your templates would probably be radically different.  

Of course this made me think of the week's "cityscape palimpsest" mojo floating through the air and those ghosts of memory we also overlay on the world. 


After eating supper, I felt restless so decided to go for a drive. I wound up on Culver Boulevard heading towards Playa del Rey, then drove along the ocean towards Manhattan Beach. I thought, "This stretch of beach hasn't changed much since the old days. Well, all except for the big honking airport just to the east." I realized I couldn't remember this stretch of beach all that clearly as my family and friends tended to go to Venice or Santa Monica beach, not the one on the butt end of LAX. 


In Manhattan Beach, I turned around and drove back the way I'd come. By that time the sun rode low in the sky. The sea was a slate grey, highlighted by blue-white facets of light. Small craft bobbed lazily out on the swells and in the distance, large tankers headed north. Garth Trinidad on Chocolate City began to play Sade. She sang, "I couldn't love you more/Never change a thing." The perfect song for the perfect moment. 

When it was over, I couldn't help saying, "Sade, darling, everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Especially human beings."

Copyright © 2010 P.J. Thompson