Objective History

From: Brian K. Curley (Master of Time & Space) (bkc@axle.adp.wisc.edu)
Date: Wed 30 Oct 1996 - 15:23:52 EET


A couple of days ago there was someone crying out that we needed an
objective history of Glorantha. Interestingly enough, Greg Stafford and I
had just completed an e-mail exchange on a closely related topic. I asked
and received Greg's permission to post the discussion to the list. I
apologize for the length. Hope you find this interesting. Oh, BTW Greg
wanted me to point out that Chaosium will soon have a Gloranthan
Information Central where he'll be posting this sort of information and,
hopefully he says, clarifying the difference between the mythis and
materialistic views of history.

========================================================================
Brian sez:

Greg,

You likley do not remember the conversation, but a couple of years ago at
Gen Con I had the chance to discuss a problem I was having getting a grip
on Gloranthan cosmology and "history". I was lamenting what seemed to be
a ever increasing number of versions of "what happened". It seemed that
depending on what I read, I got a different version of certain events,
people, etc. I wondered aloud "I just wish I knew what really happened",
to which you responded "Yeah... what *really* happened?"

At the time I wasn't sure what to think. "Was he telling me that *he*
didn't know", I wondered. I came to the conclusion that much of what I
considered discrepancies were merely your ideas evolving over time. I
then began to wonder how a published version could be "official" then be
revised later. Such an idea was maddening, hence the tendency for people
to knock on wood when mentioning "Gregging".

Anyway, lately I've developed a new theory which seems to reduce the
maddening effect of dealing with a complex creation of an evolving thought
process. That theory is: what difference does it make? Everything we
know about Glorantha is myth and legend. Who cares what really happened?
Like most history, what people are going to remember are the stories that
get told. Since Glorantha has little in the way of recording actual
events (no video recorders, etc), it all comes down to written and spoken
narrative. I have been in enough corporate communications semiars to
understand that even when painstaking detail are paid to the verbal
description passed from person to person, by the time a story gets 10
people down the line you're lucky if you can tell it's the same story.
Now applying this phenomena to a society where the stories told are not
merely stories for entertainment, but integral parts of our identities as
a people and how we deal with the larger forces of our universe we can
understand the even greater degree to which details might be altered to
make the story more palatable.

I hope this isn't too rambling, but this is a pretty eye opening
revelation to me. Suddenly I understand how or why in the middle of
everything that is know about Yelmalio's history and origins, we suddenly
have Elmal popping seemingly out of nowhere. We have our myths and
legends. Then we encounter a people from way over there who have another
set of myths and legends. Some of them are like ours, but they've got
some we've never heard of. So through all sorts of different mechanisms,
our cultures sort of merge and we end up with a set of myths and legends
that are different than we had before. Eventually the older versions are
forgotten and the "new" myths are remembered as the one true version.

To put it very shortly, people forget what happened. They remember the
*stories* about what happened. And the two are *NOT* the same. So in a
society where myths provide the means to understanding the forces of the
universe, the stories about what happened become more important than the
actual event. Which leads to the idea that if enough people believe
something it, in a sense, becomes true.

============================================================================
Greg sez:

Almost right, I think.

>Everything we know about Glorantha is myth and legend.
Also, (from a Gloranthan perspective) our personal life experiences, which is
not exactly the same as myth and legend.

>Who cares what really happened?
Well, many people actually. Because it affects their daily life in a myriad
of ways. But then, that is what the cermony is for: to check validity.

Remember, that we (Gloranthans) can go to the Event and observe and/or
participate in it through ceremony. This turns it into an experience, not a
myth.

Of course, it is a mythic experience. The critical factor of mythology is to
understand that it *inevitably* takes a shape which you will understand. It
is entirely subjective.

>Which leads to the idea that if enough people believe something it, in a
sense, becomes true.

"In a sense," yes. However, there is also a stronger Truth which underlies
all real, living mythologies. This sustains its vitality, and offers meaning
to us humans.

The mythic mask which we put upon the deeper truths is shaped by believers,
and more beleivers reinforce the experience, making it a common experience
rather than a singular one. But we can oly shape it within its bounds, or
else it will be come something else.

Which is the "problem," in that the myth has its own life and vital force
which will inevitably interact with whomever shapes it, too.

- -g
============================================================================

Anyway, there you have it.

Brian

+-------------------------+-------------------------------------------+
| Brian Curley | http://axle.doit.wisc.edu/~bkc/brian.html |
| bkc@axle.doit.wisc.edu | .sig shortened at Nick Brooke's request :)|
+-------------------------+-------------------------------------------+

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