mardi 5 février 2019


Greg Stafford, qui était retraité depuis quelques temps, avait été enseignant pour un temps au Mexique (et il dit n'avoir appris l'espagnol qu'à cet âge, à 50 ans et repris ensuite ses études abandonnées de religion comparée).

Depuis novembre 2017, il avait trouvé un nouveau hobby : poster des réponses sur Quora. Et il semble le faire avec une patience exemplaire, presque chaque jour, avec une vertu d'enseignant qui m'étonne.

Il répond surtout sur le mythe arthurien, mais aussi sur la mythologie en général et sur l'Amérique pré-colombienne (Aztèques et Mayas), mais aussi parfois sur le sens de la vie, voire sur sa propre vie (il parle parfois des tensions avec sa famille catholique, il raconte un peu comment l'addiction au "meth" a failli le détruire et à quel point il se sent redevable au stoïcisme de Narcotics Anonymous). Sa femme Suzanne intervient même une fois à sa place pour parler de son expérience. Il parle assez peu de jeu de rôle mais mentionne de temps en temps Runequest, Pendragon et un de ses personnages favoris, un gorille à la basse intelligence nommé "Larry".

Il accepte parfois de répondre à des questions idiotes ou mal formulées (sur des mythes contemporains New Age) et on y voit mieux d'autres aspects d'un Stafford intime assez profond et nuancé, non pas seulement le shaman californien (il donne une définition du shamanisme assez sobre) amateur de mythes mais un esprit critique qui peut se méfiee aussi de certains "mythes" populaires.

Voici par exemple sa réponse sur la fonction des mythes.

II discuss “living mythology,” as opposed to the modern meaning that myth = falsehood.
While science is, by far, the best method to define the material world and to slowly uncover its secrets, science is unable to provide meaning to it. Because our human experience includes so much that cannot be measured and determined by science; so much that impacts us daily with the unknown, mysterious meaning of life; we need to have a way to interact with the mystery.
Mythology provides us with meaning. It is absolutely unreliable to explain physics, astronomy, chemistry, subatomic physics, or anything else that can be accurately measured. However, it is still the best way to interact with the unmeasurable, irrational world of mystery.
The language of mythology is metaphor—poetry rather than the mathematics at the base of science. Metaphor does not directly define, but communicates through comparison and symbol. The subjects that we discern within the mystery—things like love, loyalty, anger, compassion, and all the other abstract realities of life, can only be inferred. The images that so well define these immaterial things provoke feelings within us that provide parameters and qualities to allows us to interact with them. They do not define physical absolutes. “Love is two hearts bound together in joy and care,” for instance, is a mythological statement, not a physical one, like “Loyalty is to cast aside one’s self.” “The hurricane tearing at the city is the anger of mutability at war with humankind” tells us more about wrath than it does about the weather. “My youthful rage was a hurricane of confusion, tossing the everyday objects of my life about like boats, palm trees, and roofs in the wind.”
Mythology of old personifies abstractions in a manner less used or understood today. Ancients did not use the words “god” or “goddess” to describe their deities. Zeus was Thunder, Aphrodite was love, Ares was War. Whenever those phenomena occurred, there was the god. The gods are not people, they are metaphors. “Ares wrought ruin over the landscape” does not mean a gigantic guy with Greek armor was stomping houses—war and its destruction were raging.
Mythology allows us to give structure and meaning to the unfathomable. Today the myth of Progress gives is meaning for the confusing and reckless imposition of technology and politics of our lives. The myths of Democracy and Capitalism explain our struggle against the myth of Communism and Fascism—these things whose results can be measured in GDP and social inequality, but whose inner meanings are abstractions to inspire or oppress.
Wherever we see the unknown we fill it with abstraction—with ideas and theorems. Sometimes those can be quantified and, insofar as physical reality is concerned, turned into facts. For the immeasurable, however, reproducable facts fail, and we find meaning in mythology.

De même ce message sur la valeur idéologique et mythique de l'Argent dans notre monde.

C'est un peu plus banal quand il veut résumer son mantra mystique et son propre itinéraire :

While working to change my life for the better I used to visionquest, spending days and nights out in the wilderness (various desert, seashore, mountain, forest, sacred places) without food or diversion, and learned these two things that changed me:
  1. We are all Us.
2. We may suffer to live, but we do not have to live to suffer.
And one I heard from outside of myself: It is better to regret what you have done than to regret what you have not done.

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