Family reunion: spiritual and pop culture narrative
By Jesse Hove
In his new book The Moral Landscape, author Sam Harris argues rational scientific evidence should be what provides humanity with an absolute moral compass. Harris writes, “If there are more and less effective ways for us to seek happiness and to avoid misery in this world, then there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality.” In other words: let’s toss out the moral mythological narratives that have guided humanity for as long as human history has been recorded, in favor of a morality based on pure scientific evidence. In an era where the mistrust of religious organizations is at an all time high, this may seem like an appealing argument.
I would agree that science can and has benefited humanity in a variety of ways, but I am not convinced that science should be our lone, absolute guide. Mythology has transcended the religious organization and, to this day, provides relative moral ideologies that have remained consistent though sometimes faint in the course of human history. Take for instance the ideology of giving oneself up for the sake of another. This would appear to defy our biological urge for survival, yet remains the climactic theme in many of our most popular fictional narratives.
In the bestselling series Harry Potter, Harry’s mother Lily sacrifices herself in order to protect Harry from the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Lily’s sacrifice “made the bond of blood the strongest shield” Harry could have. In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Harry’s self-sacrifice is the only way Voldemort could be destroyed while keeping Harry’s friends protected.
In Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi battles Darth Vader with light sabers before he voluntarily sacrifices himself, telling Vader that “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can imagine.”
In the C.S. Lewis classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Great Lion Aslan tricks the White Witch by offering himself to pay the price of Edmund’s transgression, but the White Witch does not know that the “deeper magic” of an innocent one, who dies willingly for the sake of another, creates a force of energy more powerful than death. Aslan is mocked, beaten and killed, and the White Witch assumes she has obtained total control over Narnia. But Aslan rises from the dead, and soon the Witch and all her forces are overtaken. Though Aslan is struck down, he, like Kenobi, returns more powerful than before.
The majority of the people I meet in life often have rejected the religious organization, but most, if not all, are still enamored with the spiritual ideologies that lay deep within these modern narratives. As a society we can try to separate our spirituality from the public sphere, but this will ultimately fail. The spiritual narrative that guides us cannot be contained within the walls of a temple or a church; they have been written into our genetic code.