How We Lost Our Appreciation of Myth and Why We Should Try to Get It Back

When I read this essay about the early 20th-century literary critic Northrop Frye I didn’t expect it to be the sort of thing that would fit into this newsletter. But it is. First, because anything by the gifted scholar Alan Jacobs is usually worth recommending. And second because its primary concern is with myth, and how we think about the role myths play in literature, in human society, and in our conceptions of ourselves. The most important myths—by which Jacobs, like Frye, means not false tales but stories of enduring cultural and symbolic meaning—in human history may well be those of the Hebrew Bible. For Frye and his successors, for decades considered passé in English departments, myth was the key to understanding literature:

Should we regret the passing of the mythical method, of mythology in its etymological sense of discourse about myths and mythmaking? Perhaps the question is misleading: mythmaking is alive and well—if by that we mean the creation and sharing of stories that are meant to orient us, morally and emotionally, to our world and are resistant to restatement in straightforward conceptual terms. But taken differently, the question reveals just how the decline of myth criticism has tended to render our own myths invisible to us as myths. They may appear to us, but they do so in false guises, as science perhaps, or as politics, or as administrative procedure.

Though the study of myth emerged from the discovery of cultural diversity, the mythical method of the 20th century arose from a desperate hope to bridge the chasms of hatred and fear that separate humans from one another. Fact and argument alone cannot build forbearance and charity across racial and cultural and sexual boundaries; this requires image and event, the visualizable and the narratable, picture and story. One can see that the attempt failed while admitting and even embracing its nobility.

Read more at Harper’s

More about: Literary criticism, Religion

Despite the Toll of War at Home and Rising Hostility Abroad, Investors Are Still Choosing Israel

When I first saw news that Google wasn’t going through with its acquisition of the tech startup Wiz, I was afraid hesitancy over its Israeli founders and close ties with the Jewish state might have something to do with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong: the deal is off not because of Google’s hesitancy, but because Wiz feared the FTC would slow down the process with uncertain results. The company is instead planning an initial public offering. In the wake of the CrowdStrike debacle, companies like Wiz have every reason to be optimistic, as Sophie Shulman explains:

For the Israeli cyber sector, CrowdStrike’s troubles are an opportunity. CrowdStrike is a major competitor to Palo Alto Networks, and both companies aim to provide comprehensive cyber defense platforms. The specific issue that caused the global Windows computer shutdown is related to their endpoint protection product, an area where they compete with Palo Alto’s Cortex products developed in Israel and the SentinelOne platform.

Friday’s drop in CrowdStrike shares reflects investor frustration and the expectation that potential customers will now turn to competitors, strengthening the position of Israeli companies. This situation may renew interest in smaller startups and local procurement in Israel, given how many institutions were affected by the CrowdStrike debacle.

Indeed, it seems that votes of confidence in Israeli technology are coming from many directions, despite the drop in the Tel Aviv stock exchange following the attack from Yemen, and despite the fact that some 46,000 Israeli businesses have closed their doors since October 7. Tel Aviv-based Cyabra, which creates software that identifies fake news, plans a $70 million IPO on Nasdaq. The American firm Applied Systems announced that it will be buying a different Israeli tech startup and opening a research-and-development center in Israel. And yet another cybersecurity startup, founded by veterans of the IDF’s elite 8200 unit, came on the scene with $33 million in funding. And those are the stories from this week alone.

But it’s not only the high-tech sector that’s attracting foreign investment. The UK-based firm Energean plans to put approximately $1.2 billion into developing a so-far untapped natural-gas field in Israel’s coastal waters. Money speaks much louder than words, and it seems Western businesses don’t expect Israel to become a global pariah, or to collapse in the face of its enemies, anytime soon.

Read more at Calcalist

More about: cybersecurity, Israeli economy, Israeli gas, Israeli technology, Start-up nation