Quote of the week

Quote of the week:

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

– John F. Kennedy (#)

6 Responses to “Quote of the week”

  1. Rich S

    Good quote. When I think of “myths” I immediately think of Greek mythology (or a perfect 1.0 release) but in reality I tend to believe in myths in my every day life. Like I can possibly have enough time in the day to do everything I want to get done. Or that I can make it through traffic to work in under 20 minutes.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Rich: Indeed. There are different piles of myths:

      myths = factual lies
      myths = in terms of abstract beliefs we use (“I can do anything!”)
      myths = stories that have non-literal but useful truths

      I’m actually very fond of mythology, and the value of stories. It’s just that I wrote a book mostly about the first, and most negative kind of myths, so people often assume I’m anti-mythology. I guess picking this JFK quote as a quote of the week doesn’t help my image on this :)

  2. Id

    Another, insidiously powerful category of myth: Group Think.

    If enough people think it, it must be so. Ignore your quiet inner voice, listen to your betters, don’t look like an idiot, don’t make waves, be too bone lazy to think for yourself, or too scared to challenge the HIPPO …

  3. Scott Berkun

    Id: Nice. I find all these different ways of thinking about myths quite fascinating. I have quite a few books on various views on the topic – the oldest, and closest to your point, is extraordinary popular delusions, but there are many others.

    Any references welcome. I’d love to read a book that compared/contrasted these views on myths.

  4. Sean Crawford

    Regarding myths, in her excellent book “Starting From Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer’s Manual,” Rita Mae Brown devotes an entire chapter to why writers (and educated people) should know the Greek myths… Incidentally, I mourn how since WWI we have pretty well lost the Greek third of our heritage, leaving us the Jewish-Christian and Hebrew.

    Regarding Group Think, I fondly recall my introduction to the concept: As part of an old black and white management training film I saw a bunch of really bright educated guys in business suits having a meeting. They were planning the invasion of the Bay of Pigs.


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