Mytheme

A moment in time cannot be explained without reference to others. We explain the world around us in snapshots, cross-referenced with other snapshots – some framed by others and screened for our entertainment and our consumer lust. When scholars discuss the cinematic parade of snapshots, they talk about the shorthand of codes and conventions, the creation of icons. Like a religion, the rituals repeat so often that eventually you need only one prop, one line, one icon and the characters have no need for exposition. Each icon is the centre of a pool of cultural ripples, all over-lapping, producing hidden currents for the unwary.

Icons are dangerous things: designed to provoke instant recognition, they leave no time for individual thought. You must respond to the icon the way its myth demands. For all myths can tumble if one is challenged. Romance is the frailest, yet most powerful of them all. If melodrama suited me I’d say ‘oh, it all began to fall apart the moment he handed back my ring’.And there we are; you have responded to the mytheme, the potent symbol of eternity. You are picturing the giving of a ring in a the romantic setting, the tears as it is returned and maybe even some romantic-comedy style snapshots of couples on beaches in-between. And you’d be wrong, but you’d get the point.When I left a ring beside his sink one morning, he couldn’t just return it in the line for the cinema with a ‘by the way’, or pass it across the table at dinner. We all want to be a part of the myth, even if it’s a post-modern manufactured re-working. Because every myth is really happily-ever-after, a dark god that must be appeased with ritual: buy the ring, wear the suit, hire the church, have 2.4 children and a dog. We will purchase anything from houses to dishwashers when the advertisement claims that they will be the perfect offering to happiness.He made his sacrifice to the Kodak moment on my doorstep. Holding a bunch of purple tulips, down on one knee in the dirt, he held out a ring towards the girl he was dating. I expect that he thought I would laugh. Maybe he even expected disappointment when I saw which ring it was. Both would fit the meme, both would complete the ritual. But the expression of horror and fear I produced ruined not one snapshot, but removed the rose tinting from many more. I explained that I would never wear the ring, never walk down the aisle. That I thought we could be happy without.

No matter how happy we’d been, he’d never be happy with me again. He spent the rest of our relationship looking over his shoulder, waiting for the dark god to rise in vengeance for my blasphemy, and eventually he left to find someone who would perform the ritual. Someone to go through the motions.

Mytheme

EvaHayles

Joined January 2008

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