Often people will ask to have a picture taken with Newton and most people like the novelty of seeing a stone gargoyle out and about. No one has ever tried to tell me that he isn’t real. Reality is subjective. He’s real because I perceive him as real.
Just as I project a personality on Newton, people project personalities on other people. We think we’re being objective, but the truth is that none of us can read minds so we can never completely know what motivates or drives another person. We don’t ever really know someone else perfectly. We view behaviors and often attribute motivations to behaviors, but we’ll always be at least partially wrong because we’re constantly viewing other people through the lens that is who we are. Being objective is like being a great driver: we all think we’re better at it than everyone else, but the truth is that we’re all flawed. Your reality of me is just as much a myth as someone else’s very different reality of me. I am not who you perceive me to be, but neither is anyone else.
Sometimes the myth we experience of someone else is the one we have chosen to see because our stories of others are rooted within ourselves. For example, I worked with a gentleman who always attributed kindness to the actions of others. I remember once discussing a mutual acquaintance named Steve. When I mentioned that I didn’t trust Steve, my friend said that he thought Steve was a basically good person. About two years later Steve was caught using company funds to romance some of the single women in the office, including taking them on expensive and unnecessary business trips to exotic locations. The myth of Steve I had created was based on the fact that Steve couldn’t stop looking at my breasts during meetings. My friend, being male, had a completely different myth of Steve’s identity. Who is the real Steve? He's probably somewhere in between the pervert and the nice guy. He is both of our views of him, and yet he is also neither because neither perception alone is an accurate picture of Steve. Steve, like all of us, is a complex person. My experience of Steve as well as my other friend's experience were both built upon fragments. Both of our views of him are myths because we filled in the gaps based on our limited experiences.
In my own life I’ve been in situations where I watched others build myths about me. There have been times when people treated me like the legendary Hera, attributing strength and wisdom to my actions. I felt these perceptions were an exaggeration and it made me feel awkward. However, to the individuals I advised this view was real because they needed to hear the information or counsel I provided. Having the right words at the right time gave me an aura of wisdom. Was I truly wise? Perhaps for a moment. But I've had other times and different situations in which I lacked wisdom. Neither the sage nor the fool would be an accurate description, but they can be true for specific moments or for specific people. The labels don't make these things who I am. But they're who I am to those who perceive me that way.
In a completely different situation, I’ve been vilified when I disagreed with the male majority in a business setting. The men who disagreed with me painted a description that resembled the mythical creature of a dangerous gorgon who could turn men into stone. I was treated as if I loved destroying plans simply for the joy of watching them crumble. What I thought I was doing was providing a realistic evaluation of a business plan. I saw the logic in my actions, but the men only saw potential opposition and their feelings of being threatened turned their view of me into a monster.
Which one is the real me - the sage or the witch? Do either of these views (or any others that people may have) make the others less valid? They're all based on subjective experiences. But everyone's subjective realities are their only realities. Does this mean that I should change my behavior to create the stories I want others to see? Absolutely not. We can no more control the myths that others create any more than we can control their minds. We are mythical creatures, but the only myths we control are the ones we create about others.
Myths are stories and mythical creatures are the animals who appear in these tales. Each mythical creature is based on a facet of shared common experience, on the elements that we see in others. For example, we've all been around a person of strength, likes a Hercules or an amazon. We've also seen the attractive women who lure men to their deaths like a siren (note that sometimes the death isn't physical and it's a career or relationship that dies). We all feel like we've had to work with the person who's weak in every area, such as the minotaur. Fairies, pixies, witches, banshees, hydras, unicorns, gargoyles, and all mythical creatures are real because we see elements of these things in other people. These things exist in stories because they're part of our experiences. They're the realities we've built based on our perceptions of one another.
We create these myths and become mythical creatures every day. So the next time that someone tells you that mythical creatures don't exist, don't believe that person. Mythical creatures are real and all around us. They are us.
Newton was too large to travel with me to Paris, so I took Flat Newton with me. Here we are shopping for books in Paris.