One prominent tale of the Blue Men goes thus:
“A fishing trawl passed through the strait on its way home after a day of heavy fishing. A light fog stood upon the carpet of a gray sea. Lookouts were posted. One of them spotted something floating on the suface of the sea off the starboard bow. It was a Blue Man fast asleep in the water.
“Quickly and silently, the fisherman netted him. Taken on board, he was bound hand and foot. His skin was blue and his fish-tail glistened with scales even though there was no sun.
“The trawler had not sailed a thousand feet when two more Blue Men rose to the surface shouting:
Duncan will be one,
Duncan will be two,
Will you need another
Ere you reach the shore?
“A moment later, as if he alone had understood the mysterious message, the prisoner snapped his bonds and dove into the sea.”
Strictly speaking, there’s not really a moral to the story of the Blue Men. There is, however, an explanation. The Blue Men are a myth. A myth which explains the origin and distinctiveness of the Scottish Highlanders. And although a myth is irrational and unscientific on the one hand, it is psychologically and spiritually necessary on the other hand. Human beings need more than antiseptic facts and empirical evidence to account for themselves; they need belief, history and, most importantly, stories. For stories have life, and they provide a sense of glamour. Facts and evidence don’t convey a sense of life or a glow of glamour, they are inanimate.
Without glamour there is no culture. Culture is built upon the ideas, habits, skills, art, instruments and institutions of a given people. And all these building blocks of culture must support and carry a certain portion of beauty or charm to justify their existence. Or at least appear to have a suggestion of charm, even if in reality they don’t. For the people of a culture need to believe they are special, and not common. For being common is depressing, which leads to self-pity. Whereas being special aggrandizes in a healthy way. It engenders ambition, love, mercy, courage and self-sufficiency.
Myths, then, are the cultural equivalent of a person who is a name-dropper. I know someone who is famous, therefore, by association, I’m special, too.
To this end, a narrative of how and why they are special becomes imperative. So stories are concocted, stories which explain origins, characteristics, and exclusivity. The narratives do not always declare a people or culture to be blessed, just special. Indeed, some mythical narratives describe cultures that are special because of their monumental suffering. Their very act of suffering becomes a monument to their specialness. For only an extraordinary culture – an extraordianry people – could suffer so and still survive. Any other culture would, necessarily, have vanished.
The myth of the Blue Men provides uniqueness – the twinkle of glamour – to the culture of Scottish Highlanders. They are special sinners: a lusty people, but at least this is a socially acceptable sin, one that other cultures may actually be jealous of. But, the Highlanders claim, our randiness is the result of our greatness as a race – the blood of fallen angels runs through our bodies. Thus we are twice special.
Collectively and individually, human beings need to feel, to believe and demonstrate that they are unique. Without this self-perception, they are devoid of glamour. Without glamour, human beings lose their self-esteem, enter depression and despair. Then begins degeneration, which is simply the search for glamour through pleasure. Which is a dead end because, although pleasure is enjoyable, it has no glamour.