I call it the King Who? effect, after an incident that happened during my son’s teen years.
A neighbour wanted to hire him for a few hours of manual labour, and he had to call her.
This was the deep dark ages of phone books.
“What was her name? How do you spell that?”
“David. Like, you know, King David.”
At that moment I realised that I had neglected a vital part of my children’s education.
A precious baby of cultural tradition had been thrown out with the smelly bathwater of patriarchal religion.
We had no desire to raise children with the fear of hell and damnation.
Yet in skipping religious indoctrination we failed to transmit the mythology at the heart of
our own culture.
Daughter filled those gaps in education when she belonged to a Christian youth group.
Son knew the gods and heroes of various mythologies, could tell you all about Nanabush
and Mouse Woman, but knew only vaguely that Easter “had something to do with Christianity”.
I should have done better.
I have never read “The Great Code”, Northrop Frye’s classic work on the Bible as literary influence.
But one gets the idea. A living culture needs a shared bank of stories and images to draw from.
Until recently Western culture’s bank of stories consisted largely of the Bible, with the addition
of Greco Roman classics in the more educated. A hunter with a grade 8 education would feel flattered
if you called him a Nimrod. Everyone would know why the youngest child was called the Benjamin of the family.
I certainly have no desire to return to religious indoctrination, be it Christian or other.
More some other time on the need for meaningful shared rituals to bind a society.
For now, in this time of transition, I feel the loss of the Great Code.