In the academic fields of mythology, mythography, or folkloristics, a myth (mythos) is a sacred story concerning the origins of the world or how the world and the creatures in it came to be in their present form. The active beings in myths are generally gods and heroes. Myths often are said to take place before recorded history begins. In saying that a myth is a sacred narrative, what is meant is that a myth is believed to be true by people who attach religious or spiritual significance to it. Use of the term by scholars does not imply that the narrative is either true or false. See also legend and tale.I will use the term "myth" in a yet broader sense: stories we tell ourselves to help us understand our lives.
[Wikipedia entry for myth]
I've occasionally offended folks by referring to the "Christian myth." Most folks take "myth" to mean, "not true." I do not. I take the expanded view suggested above, that a myth - personal, cultural, national - is a story told to help us understand ourselves.
My personal myth is tied to Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. I saw my first G&S operetta - The Pirates of Penzance at Highfield Theater in Falmouth, MA, at age 9. I listened to recordings of G&S throughout junior high & high school. I worked "tech" on G&S productions in college. In 1995, at age 42, I auditioned for a G&S show (The Pirates of Penzance) - the audition was the first time I sang in public.
I established the first "career development plan" I've ever successfully completed, with the goal of singing a minor lead in a G&S production. I took singing lessons, acting lessons, dance lessons. I auditioned for dramatic roles in local community theater - and played Frank Doel in 84 Charing Cross Road and Felix Unger in The Odd Couple.
My goal was attained in 2001 when I sang the role of Dick Deadeye in a local production of H.M.S. Pinafore.
I now collect G&S-related Victorian tradecards.
This particular personal myth has grounded me for more than 40 years. G&S operettas, and my participation in them - as audience, listener, techie, performer, and collector, - have provided a narrative anchor for my life.
Our shared national myth is documented in the U.S. Constitution. This is the founding document to which we can refer to discover who we are as a nation.
No, we have not always - or ever - lived up to its ideals... but it tells us who we are, nevertheless.
The Constitution is both the legal basis and the founding myth for our country. Without it we are no longer Americans.