Epic: Is It Time to Find a New Myth
beyond Good and Evil?


I was looking forward to seeing Epic, the new Disney movie, with my daughter in a way I hadn’t looked forward to a kid’s movie in a long time. I love a good nature story, and Disney always does a great job of creating beautiful imagery and fun stories. We enjoyed it. It was heaps of fun, although I cried terribly (much more than my kids) when Ronan was done for. But that probably says more about me and my life because I was still crying about that this morning when I woke up. Silly me. He was just a leaf man, after all.

But in truth, I was very disappointed in the premise of the story, which means, perhaps, I’m becoming disappointed in the premise of our whole story. All of it. And that is the “epic” story of good vs. evil. That ongoing war we keep fighting over and over and that no one ever really wins.

In the movies, it’s a lot easier to see—whether it’s black-and-white, color, or 3-D. The good guys are always Super Good. And the bad guys are always Super Evil. Every movie preview is a mini version, and we all know how it ends in popular movies. But seeing that story transferred to nature with “good” being growth and “evil” being decay is just plain wrong.

Last week at a Rodale Institute board meeting, we heard a presentation from our chief scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham about the life beneath the soil and how essential it is for our survival. Even just a tiny bit of education about nature makes it easy to see that the dance between growth and decay is a good thing. It’s a beautiful collaboration. A tree dies and falls over, and the microorganisms begin the process of breaking it down into rich fresh soil; meanwhile, it becomes a home to salamanders and toads and baby animals. All the things in nature that seem scary (spiders and snakes and ants and fungi) play a key role in transforming one thing into another thing. Dr. Ingham’s findings about the soil show that everything we need to create abundance is already in the soil, and the key to growth is protecting and supporting that growth by not over-tilling (think of it as destroying the homes of the creatures down below or a giant twister that comes through on a regular basis) or spreading toxic chemicals or fertilizers (think of it as waging chemical warfare on the civilians who are just trying to help us out and live a full life and raise their children peacefully). Nature is neither good nor evil; it just is beautiful in all its complex glory.

There was an interesting debate last week online about the killing of a soldier in the UK in retaliation for “terrorism” abroad. I don’t have an answer or an opinion other than to say that how we each define terrorism is relative to our own perspective.  What seems good and evil in one country is completely different in another country’s perspective…and so it goes, on and on.

What’s the answer? Understanding. Education. Love. And the willingness to create a new story together that is just as thrilling and entertaining and distracting as the one about good vs. evil. I’m not sure what it is, but you can bet I’ll be thinking about it. And I hope you do, too.

I’ll end this with my favorite Rumi quote, which it turns out has more to it than what you see quoted all the time:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

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6 Responses to Epic: Is It Time to Find a New Myth
beyond Good and Evil?

  1. robin & warren June 3, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Brilliant! And~ I think about it too. Some days I think of little else :)

  2. Estee June 3, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I often think that your solution is the deepest struggle: The struggle for people to shed preoccupation with their own selves and emerge into a realm of understanding, acceptance and love, and a willingness to be educated. The willingness to create a new story together is something itself monumental to achieve.

  3. Kae June 3, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    I’m so glad you blogged about this Maria because it seems to be at the root of most of our problems. We as Americans need to stop thinking of ourselves as the perennial “good guys” holding the line against our enemies. As individuals or countries, it’s only when we fess up to our wrong doing (while celebrating our good deeds) that we can understand and cooperate with other people and other nations.

  4. Barbara June 4, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    Yes. Well said. Perspective. People tend to be locked into their own little ‘perspective box’ that they cannot see the whole picture, the whole interconnectedness of ALL life. Some feel it takes too much time to incorporate another perspective into their own; they like to keep their head in the sand so they do not have the annoyance of having to do something different. I get fed up with the ‘I just do not have the time to worry about that’.

    Maybe a screenplay on the whole interconnectedness of life and what happens when people disregard it. The Whole perspective rather than just a narrow view. Could it be done? I think I will be spending time on this… Thanks for the idea!

  5. Reowolf June 9, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    Maria wrote about not viewing the cycles of life as “good” or “evil”, but rather finding the beauty of every facet of nature. She spoke of how the diverse elements in the process work together to sustain and perpetuate the lives of each individual life form. In that cycle, one form of life devours another. When the salamander eats the insect it produces waste which helps a plant grow which will be eaten by an insect which will be eaten by a salamander. An insect might look at a salamander as evil for doing the same thing for which the plant views the salamander as a savior.

    Kae wrote of the need of Americans to “fess up” to their wrong doings and stop seeing themselves as “good guys”. I am curious who she is including as “Americans”. The Americas run from the north to the south of the globe. In that span there are many countries and individuals from diverse social backgrounds who, like the salamander, are just doing what they feel they need to do to survive from one day to the next. Just like the ant and plant, there are individuals and countries which will view other individuals and countries as either saviors or monsters. The questions are then, what are the wrongs that she feels need to be fessed, how does she know it is a wrong and wasn’t something meant to benefit, and how is anyone benefited by the fessing of these supposed wrongs?

    There was a wise man who once said, “Forgive them seventy times seven.” I think he was trying to that we cannot truly know the thoughts or motivations of anyone but ourselves. It is a waste of time and resources to point fingers of blame. If we see something that we don’t like, we can work to be better and do better than that thing we don’t like. People who like the way we think and do will stand beside us and join us. That is how the United States and many other countries came into being. Were there other countries and cultures devoured in the process? Yes were there other countries and cultures saved in the process? Once again the answer is, yes. True harmony does not come from destroying individuality, but rather rejoicing in and embracing the unique part each individual plays in the perfecting of the whole.

  6. Michael September 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    I find your reference to the young man run down and hacked to death on a London street interesting. You ‘offer no opinion’ and this cowardly, deplorable crime and yet apparently cried like a baby over a prolonged period of time over the demise of a Disney character. Very strange.

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