In our family we talk a great deal about both science and myth, which reflects the interests of my husband and myself. Our children, two boys ages 8 and 6, have thankfully developed a deep curiosity about both subjects, which keeps things lively in our home, to say the least.
The boys often ask me to tell them myths, and we have lots of wonderful conversations about the stories I tell, about what they might mean, and what might be going on underneath the surface of the stories. They are both at the age where they have questions about whether the stories are “true.”
Yesterday was one of the times that this question came up. The boys are out of school for spring break, and we were driving home from an outing when they asked me again if myths are “true.” I was reminded of the wonderful quote from Pablo Picasso, in which he says that “art is the lie that tells the truth.” I amended this slightly, and told them that “myth is the lie that tells the truth,” then asked them what they thought that meant. We talked about understanding the difference between something being “literally” true, like the fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and being a truth that teaches us something about who we are as human beings. This is the kind of true that myth is, and I love that they’re starting to understand this, at such young ages. Having these kind of conversations with my children is such a joy to me as a parent. It’s both fascinating and wonderful to see them developing the critical thinking skills that allow them to differentiate between these two kinds of truth, and to appreciate what myth has to offer them without needing it to be a literal truth.