I have a fascination with religious beliefs and traditions. I love reading the myths of the world and seeing how they lay the foundations for what each group of people believe, even thousands of years after the story’s creation.
By the word myth, I’m not saying whether they are true or false. Myths are the stories that are passed down in order to tell you about the world and your place in it. A creation myth lays the foundation for how you got here, where you came from, and what your role is now that you’re here.
Depending on the civilization and myth, it can tell you who’s in charge and what they value. There’s something interesting about the power of narrative. How can a story from so long ago influence so many people for so long?
On my bookshelf at home, I have an Eastern Orthodox icon (painting) of The Trinity. It was painted by Andrei Rublev, a Russian painter in the 15th century. The Trinity, in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, is the icon of hospitality. It shows the three people that visited Abraham, in the book of Genesis, sitting around a table.
The early Christians took this story and used it as the backdrop for the doctrine of ‘The Trinity.’ For me, though, this myth has nothing to do with the belief in the father, son, and holy spirit. Rublev’s hospitality icon is important to me because by receiving the three strangers, Abraham and Sarah further their own narrative.
The story of the strangers gets intertwined with Abraham and Sarah and they learn something new about themselves. This icon is a reminder to me to be welcoming and hospitable to strangers. It helps me remember that every stranger has a story.
I kept this myth in mind, when a group of young Mormons came walking down the street and knocked on my door. I offered for them to come in and eat. Did I become Mormon? No. I did have them over three times to understand them and learn what it was like to be Mormon and to be them personally.
Does this mean that you should let every stranger in your house because it says that Abraham did? No, definitely do not do that.
Just like I get to choose what to get out of a myth, I get to choose when to apply it. I am admittedly a nerd and like to discuss beliefs and theology. I like to learn about people and different ways to think and live. This comes with an openness to new people in certain situations.
Being open and hospitable to new people and ideas can help you understand yourself and other people. It can further your narrative and expand your viewpoints.
Rublev’s icon sits among books about American history, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Bhagavad Ghita, Chinese anthropology, the Bible, Dostoevsky, and Huckleberry Finn. His icon reminds me that even if my interests and beliefs change, there are some myths worth keeping.
Eric Overby lives in Russell County. You can find his poetry on Amazon and more of his writings on Instagram @mindful_stoic_poet.