Michael Meade is a mythologist, storyteller and author best known for books like The Water of Life, Fate and Destiny, The Genius Myth and Why the World Doesn't End.
When you hear the word genius, what do you think of? The image that comes to mind for most people is an Einstein-like figure: a mad scientist in a white coat with glasses, the person solving equations in the middle of the night on a blackboard who is smarter than everyone.
But this hasn’t always been the case. Go back far enough in time to the root of the word in Ancient Rome and the word had a very different meaning.
The Romans saw the genius as the unique nature that is present in every individual person. Much like a guardian angel, they believed the genius would follow each man from the hour of his birth until the day he died. The Greeks had a similar concept, which they called the Daimon and thought of as a lesser deity or guiding spirit.
The distinction here is that genius was not something a few people were and others weren’t. It was something everybody had and it would express itself in different ways whether it was music, writing, sports or something else.
Michael Meade is someone who has spent most of his life using stories and myths to help others discover their genius and on top of his work as an author, he has also used those talents as the founder of the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a Seattle-based non-profit dedicated to education through storytelling.
In this episode we discuss:
- What finding your genius means on a practical level and how you can help yourself and others figure out what you’re supposed to do
- How to use the transformational power of storytelling and keeping a story fresh that you’ve told many times before
- Life lessons about initiation, teaching, learning from the world’s richest and most compelling mythologies
We also cover Michael’s near fatal run-in with a gang aged 13 and his experience going on hunger strike after being drafted into the Vietnam War aged 20. This was a special conversation that will get your imagination going and help you discover and tap into your own genius.
- Introducing Michael [01:58]
- What was Michael’s earliest memory of school? [04:06]
- What do the concepts of left and right represent in mythology? [07:56]
- How did getting in trouble at school teach Michael what he was good at? [11:11]
- Why did Michael end up joining a gang at 13? How did storytelling save him from a violent attack from a rival gang? [15:35]
- How did Michael's experience in solitary confinement during the Vietnam War affect him? [18:51]
- How do you make a living out of storytelling in a world that doesn't always value this talent? [23:54]
- What do different world mythologies offer Michael? Why does immediacy matter in storytelling? [28:00]
- How to retell stories in a way that keeps them fresh and interesting [31:05]
- How conventions restrict the way people imagine and tell stories [33:49]
- The connection between being true to yourself and living a meaningful life [36:29]
- Why don’t parents see the genius in their children? And what can they do to bring it out? [39:58]
- What are the ways in which we can better see people for who they are? [45:43]
- What does water symbolise and why is it associated with the concept of the soul? [51:36]
- How are the archetypes of water and fire related in mythology? [56:45]
- Why is the idea of the apocalypse a crucial part of our imagination as humans? Why does Michael believe we are already living in an apocalyptic world? [01:00:36]
- How technology is promoting horizontal connection but a lack of vertical depth [01:09:01]
- What is needed to update a culture? How can people help others navigate that process? [01:14:45]
- How does Michael use different mediums to express his genius as a storyteller? [01:22:19]
- Closing remarks [01:26:39]
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