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A Snowbird Searches for the Right Myth

My bio-rhythms have been so screwed up with the 90 degree heat in Yuma -- in February! Soon I was in Patagonia AZ at over 4000 feet of elevation. It felt so good to sleep in a chilly bed again; to get out of bed in the morning and walk while trying to keep my toes from touching the 40 F floor; to put on a jacket and walk downtown Patagonia. Ahh, cool air and warm sun.

Over the winter in Yuma, things that seemed like luxuries at the beginning began to bore me. Even my dog got bored: we walked in a beautiful desert at sunrise and sunset, but there was no game there. Just rubble. Eventually a snowbird can't or won't apply the mental discipline needed to ignore the overcrowding.   

The tipping point came when my attitude changed about my road cycling club, the main reason why I was there in the first place. The high speed riding by 70-year-olds seemed so admirable at the beginning of winter. By the end, my loyalty to living at the point-of-diminishing-returns reasserted itself.

Does all this sound like complaining? It isn't. What it really means is that my winter has succeeded; it has served its purpose. Earlier in my career I would have been frustrated with these end-of-winter feelings; after all, it sounds bad to use words like 'bored' or 'sick of.' But words like positive, negative, good, and bad really don't apply so well to a natural cycle.

What did I think? That retirement was 365 days per year of wrinkle-free perfection? Where do we get such crazy notions? Probably from our Christian tradition of going to heaven for eternal bliss, even though it really must be sheer boredom up there. When Western Civilization started outgrowing Christianity intellectually in the 1700s, all the mighty intellectuals did was replace the idea of a far-away heaven with a more immediate, material, and utilitarian paradise.

We all like the Spring themes of rejuvenation and renewal. Again, it fits in with the Christian theme of resurrection -- or is it the other way around?

The myth of a dead "vegetation" god, who goes into the ground for awhile, and is reborn during the planting season occurs across the spectrum of ancient myths. We who are of northern European background think of the deadness of winter, but the theme works well whatever the cause of the agriculturally-dormant season. For instance, in ancient Egypt the floods came in late summer, and the planting started in October. 

Our pre-snowbird lives prepared us to see winter as a drab dark dormancy, and to look forward to spring for warm sunshine, blooming wildflowers, and cute witto bunnie-wunnies being born. But this myth does not really serve the needs of the snowbird, who experiences an active and delightful winter. In order to get the most from my snowbird lifestyle I need to abandon this winter dormancy/spring rejuvenation paradigm, and embrace a new model for life. If you want to personify this, just for fun, let's say I need to find a new myth, a new "vegetation deity."

Was there ever an ancient civilization with 12 months per year of agriculture, as in Yuma? The crops would have changed, but agriculture would not have gone into dormancy in the off-season. What kind of myths did they create?

Such an ancient civilization would be the soul-mate of the modern snowbird, who lacks a dormant season, but merely changes his "crop" with the seasons. A snowbird needs to let their imagination run in the direction of that myth -- if there were one.


Ed said…
"Was there ever an ancient civilization with 12 months per year of agriculture..?"

Perhaps the Maya who believed in a cyclical nature of time. Their rituals and ceremonies were very closely associated with celestial and terrestrial cycles more so than crop cycles.

Or the Khmer Empire of Southeast Asia. Most of that area continues to harvest 3 crops of rice a year. I know very little about their myths but I don't think they were based on crop cycles.
XXXXX said…
There appears to be a tendency for the human mind to strive to get things "right" and then to want to keep them that way but that is contradictory to the way the universe works, which is constant and everlasting change and flux.
One can attribute this lack of ease in going with the flow to a flaw in evolution, in a way, since it creates constant conflict but it does help us survive as a species, doesn't it? This is one price we pay for having this degree of consciousness we have attained through evolution.
I think the new myth ideally is to have no myth for any myth will serve a limited purpose and eventually leave one disappointed. But is that possible since the human mind has evolved these last 10 thousand years wrapped around one myth or another as their "higher power?" Is it possible for a person to feel the sense of satisfaction they crave, a sense of happiness, without being attached to the fulfillment of some myth or internal belief long-held and deeply imbedded in the fabric of our being?
The expression "Don't believe everything you think" comes to mind.
When I was referring to myth I didn't mean superstition, I only meant a personification of the fundamental paradigm of your lifestyle. I could have used words like metaphor, model, or paradigm just as easily. Personifying your lifestyle model makes it seem less cold and abstract.
I forgot about the Maya, and never thought about the Khmer. Thanks for the ideas.
XXXXX said…
Oh dear. Myth is only considered superstition by those who don't believe in it. For those who do, it is as you describe.........a personification of the fundamental paradigm of life.
This culture is not exempt from the same psychology of the past......we have our myths but we don't like to call them that because we believe in them, i.e., they seem to be real, the Truth, etc. Perhaps it is only in the looking back that they can be clearly seen.
At any rate, I think it's dangerous to always form these preconceptions of things and then strive for fulfillment. Why not just take it as it comes and refrain from constantly assigning meaning to it? It is what it is. Period.
If one believes something to be truth, then it is indeed truth for them. My vehemently religious mother was proof that perception is everything, and I must admit that it worked to her advantage… believing that God was working at her side, helping her overcome life's trials and tribulations. There is a certain mercy to ignorance, some even call it "bliss."
Good points all, even though they are a bit off topic.

Rationalists who think they are more truthful (and intelligent) than religious people have never really lived up to the problem that a PURELY rational mind is not necessarily good at overcoming discouragement, impatience, risk, and pain.