Michael Meade, D.H.L., has studied myth, anthropology, history of religion, and cross-cultural rituals for over 35 years. His hypnotic and fiery storytelling, street savvy perceptiveness, and spellbinding interpretations of ancient myths and symbols are highly relevant to current culture. He has an unusual ability to distill and synthesize these disciplines, tapping into ancestral sources of wisdom, while connecting them to the stories of people today. Meade is Founder of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a network of artists, teachers and activists that fosters community healing and development efforts. He is the author of Fate and Destiny, The World Behind the World, The Water of Life; editor, with James Hillman and Robert Bly, of Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart; and editor of Crossroads: A Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage. For information on other titles by Michael Meade visit www.mosaicvoices.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Meade is a renowned storyteller, mythologist, and the founder of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a 20-year-old organization that uses story as a way to help folks who are at risk. Mosaic’s work is ultimately about transforming our own stories so that we can be more aligned and so that we can help create a more aligned world. In an interview with Susan McCabe of Voice of Vashon, Michael told the audience, “People come into this world as a story trying to live its way out. If more people spent more time living the story that they carry within rather than working at fulfilling some other goal, then the world would [be provided] a way of transforming.”
A lot of the focus for his interview with transform. was on youth and the holy hills of learning, a concept in his latest book Fate and Destiny, which “speaks directly to young people looking to find a genuine path in life and trying to awaken to the dream they carry inside. It offers penetrating insights for those caught in life’s inevitable struggles and shows how the wisdom of elders depends upon re-membering the spirit of eternal youth.” (source: Amazon.com) The holy hills of learning are a place for a kind of “higher education” or “second birth”; it is where people awaken to their natural talents and gifts.
At Mosaic there’s a lot of focus on helping young people create change within their lives–on how to find their gifts. Michael’s response has been to recognize and honor the unseen gifts young people bring. His focus on helping youth is from his own realization that we’ve limited their growth in enormous ways, including our current technology/media driven society.
In an interview with Francis Weller of Wisdom Bridge, Michael noted that, “…as a group, almost this whole generation is increasingly exiled by technology and by lack of interest by the rest of the culture. And then exiled by exploitation. People see the young people coming up as the next consumer group and they just want to exploit them. All this builds into the feeling of exile.”
One of the ways to begin eroding that sense of exile is to acknowledge who young people are and where they are. In our exchange, he said, “Youth need an education of the spirit, not simply the kind of general instruction given to children still unable to speak for themselves. Most of the cynicism, violence, apathy, and depression that youth suffer can be attributed to not being recognized and seen as the unique individuals that they already are inside. Most of the trouble that youth get into secretly seeks to reveal the inner character and natural genius within them. Too often, those dealing with the problems of youth try to apply general rules and abstract systems of morality and belief. Meanwhile, it is the inner uniqueness of each soul that is the source of the problems of each youth and that can become the natural cure as well. Coming of age means coming to know something of one’s true self and awakening to the way we are each already seeded and aimed at life.”
These days so many young people seem jaded and apathetic about so many things happening in the world around them. I wondered how Mosaic and Michael responded to this. He said, “People complain that young people think that “the world owes them something” and actually, it does. The world owes young people genuine opportunities to find what gifts and abilities they carry within and what story they came here to live out. When the second birth expected by the soul doesn’t occur, or else happens in a haphazard manner, people can be disoriented throughout their lives. Feeling existentially unwelcome and unblessed, young people can easily become overwhelmed and lost in the floods of change and in the storms of life.”
Clearly, many young people do get caught up in the storms of life and grow old in them, never fully growing up and never fully having their gifts–or their stories–recognized. Because of this, many of us, who are now grown people, end up leading partially fulfilled and stunted lives. Being young is a stage that many of us have not yet completely let go.
In the program Mosaic offers called Voices of Youth, young people get to tell their stories. They have the opportunity to be heard by one another, by elders (who also participate in the program), and by members of their own communities.
The folks that Mosaic works with in its many workshops are most often people at risk, people with deep wounds that need healing and acknowledgement. Michael suggests that people get close to their wounds. Youth need this so that they can have a more solid foundation for their own lives.
We’re taught, of course, to move away from our wounds. Logically, wounds are painful, damage comes from jostling a sprained ankle, a bruised heart. Yet, wounds teach us about who we are. In his previous conversation with Francis Weller, Michael explained, “…if a person isn’t at home dwelling near their gifts then they are probably dwelling near their wounds.” He believes we need to learn from both by exposing what hurts, by telling our stories to others.
For young folks who don’t get that chance, Michael says that “…[they] can feel inclined to throw their own life away or even wreck the lives of others. Instead of a village waiting to receive the innate gifts of its children, youth become a burden, an increasing cost in a world where everything has a price. From the view of natural talents and inner purpose, from the angle of fate and destiny in each soul, the world seems to be turned backward and upside down.”
And the results of that become painful on a large scale for all of us. All of us are affected by the unexpressed gifts of the young.
Michael often speaks about education and mentorship as a way for youth to begin to unravel the sometimes confusing patterns of their lives. “Until, modern times when it became mostly a civic task, education was considered a sacred work. It was sacred because it involved the indwelling spirit in the student and because it required an awakened spirit in the teachers. Spirit to spirit, genius to genius, soul to soul go the true lessons that help young people become themselves. Ultimately, each person holds the key to the story trying to be lived from within, but first someone else must help unlock the mystery of one’s life.”