Platitudes are so easy to bandy about: Take more chances! Be bolder! Do what's never been done before! Exclamation points galore.
Can be a wee bit harder to act on, be, and embody.
If I were trying to, let's say, start a dry-cleaning business I believe I'd have many more allies. Yet try to do something you're not too sure anyone's done before (and definitely not that crystal-clear and known to yourself, either), and as far as I've seen allies are far and few between. Truth be told, I get more flak than support. So I tend to keep mum. Yet I'm not sure staying tight-lipped and isolated is the best remedy for creative folks, either.
So let's consider each other allies for a moment.
And you can consider this blog to be your friend. You'll have to participate to get the full benefit of alliance. (I'm not a mind-reader. So by participate, we can begin by use of your blog with links here to add your two cents--I'll find the clews, use the comments below, or subscribe to Encanto... I see Skype group calls in the future. Private email doesn't benefit others in our circle; so that's last resort.)
So here we begin... First, it can't hurt to devour some more Campbell, because Campbell is an ally too.
I owe a huge thank you to a few screenwriting books for re-reminding me of Campbell--although I'll be upfront and say that most script-writing tomes don't address the power of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey in terms our own journey. (I have two characters in a 'story' I'm writing in the film biz, so it's been part of my research). Wildly enough, screenwriting books keep dropping in my lap--for instance, a publicist just sent along "Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a career in screenplay writing" (still reading, so neutral so far). All these screenwriting how-to's praise Campbell--a lot.
So when I stumbled into the philosophy section of the bookstore a week or so ago, I decided to skim An Open Life, an edited conversation based on a series of interviews conducted between 1975 and 1985 with Joseph Campbell and Michael Toms as I wanted to get back to the source, rather than reading 2nd and 3rd-hand interpretations (it's been six years since I read Campbell).
The beauty of the book, An Open Life, is it is written decades after his ground-breaking The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and so he's had the benefit of time to reflect and re-consider what he's researched and shared.
After an evening of reading a few other books on myth and mystery at the bookstore, as I headed with my mother back towards her car in the parking lot, and the vanity license plate, GUIDED winked from the first stall. (Really, I don't make this stuff up.)
I think that's the crux of what Campbell is trying to say about following the clues in this passage, and that once you do heed the Herald you'll feel GUIDED one step at a time into the Unknown:
Campbell: [Answering interviewer's question on the Eastern guru-disciple model, Campbell says that it's not necessarily culturally appropriate in the West and gives a Holy Grail example, paraphrasing from La Queste del Saint Graal.] "They were seated at King Arthur's roundtable when The Grail appeared "carried by angelic miracle, covered, however by a cloth. Everyone was in rapture and then it withdrew. Arthur's nephew Gawain stood up and said, "I propose a vow. I propose that we should all go in pursuit of this Grail to behold it unveiled."
. . .
"They thought it would be a disgrace to go forth in a group. Each entered the forest that he had chosen where there was no path and where it was darkest." Now, if there's a way or path, it's someone else's way; and the guru has a path for you. He knows where you are on it. He knows where he is on it, namely, way ahead. And all you can do is get to be as great as he is. This is a continuation of the dependency of childhood; maturity consists in outgrowing that and becoming your own authority for your life. And this quest for the unknown seems so romantic to Oriental people. What is unknown is the fulfillment of your own unique life, the likes of which has never existed on the earth. And you are the only one who can do it. People can give you clues how to fall down and how to stand up; but when to fall and when to stand, and when you are falling and when you are standing up, this only you can know."
Interviewer Michael Toms paraphrases elements of the Hero and the Call, and mentions there's a chapter in Hero with a Thousand Faces entitled "Refusal of the Call", "you talk about how we often follow society, and with the Call the reverse is what's more appropriate."
Campbell [Wee snippet, much longer reply including that it is certainly possible to live a noble life "in the village compound", as well, if no Call comes]. On the other hand, if the Call is whispering: "But if a person has had the sense of the Call--the feeling that there's an adventure for him--and if he doesn't follow that, but remains in the society because it's safe and secure, then life dries up.... If you have the guts to follow the risk, however, life opens, opens, opens up all along the line... And just like in Dickens' novel, little accidental meetings and so forth turn out to be main features in the plot, so in your life. And what seems to have been mistakes at the time, turn out to be directive crises. And then he asks: "Who wrote this novel?".... The secure way is really the insecure way and the way in which the richness of the quest accumulates is the right way."
Interviewer, Michael Toms: "Joseph, in that same chapter on the Call, you wrote: "The myths and folk tales of the whole world make clear that the refusal [of the Call] is essentially a refusal to give up what one takes to be one's own interest." And then you go on to talk about how we get fixed in our own security and our own ideals and are reluctant to see them change."
Campbell: "There's a kind of regular morphology and inevitable sequence of experiences if you start out to follow your adventure. I don't care whether it's in economics, in art, or just in play. There's the sense of the potential that opens out before you. And you have no idea how to achieve it; you start out into the dark. Then, strange little help-mates come along, frequently represented by little fairy spirits or the little gnomes, who just give you clues, and these open out. Then there is the sense of danger you always run into--really deep peril--because no one has gone this way before. And the winds blow, and you're in a forest of darkness very often and terror strikes you."
Interviewer: "So often we see those dark places as huge problems rather than as opportunities. What does mythology have to say about that?"
Campbell: "Well, mythology tells us that where you stumble, there your treasure is.... where it seems most challenging lies the greatest invitation to find deeper and greater powers in ourselves.
Toynbee speaks of challenge and response, and every culture and individual runs into these challenges. If the power to respond fails, then that's the end. But where the power to respond succeeds, there comes a new amplification of life and consciousness.
When I wrote about the Call forty years ago [published 1949], I was writing out of what I had read. Now that I've lived it, I know it's correct. And that's how it turned out. I mean, it's valid. These mythic clues work."
[Later interviewer Toms asks about the irrationality of following this sort of Call:] Campbell: "This is irrational. That's the point. All compassion, all sympathy, is irrational. Love is irrational. The rational is always stressing I--thou opposites. The mind is in the world of separateness and angular structures. It's a world put together in a way to be calculated. Compassion, love--these jump mathematics."
p.s. The cited chapter "The Refusal of the Call" starts off using King Minos, who built the labyrinth in an attempt to contain his shadow--here the Ego refusing to surrender, as an example of refusing the call, which was projected as a monster, the Minotaur. It's an example of Carl Jung's statement, "When an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate." Your demons, and monsters, refusals and aversions, become writ large, projected on-screen 'out there':
"The divinity itself became his terror; for, obviously, if one is oneself one's god, then God himself, the will of God, the power that would destroy one's egocentric system, becomes a monster." - Campbell
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears / I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Another writer on a philosophy Wiki aptly interpreted this chapter further, and shares: "An unanswered call makes the would-be hero a victim now needing to be saved by a hero. This is an interesting psychological point made by Campbell. Our need to be saved and desire and victimization are actually the result of our own failure to answer the calls presented to us, a failure to recognize the Herald in our midst. But we express this as victimization, or the need to be saved. What a tangled web we weave when we refuse the call. [My note: could explain over-emphasis on Messianic/Savior and Superhero plotlines, rather than on self-mastery.] King Minos is given as an example: whatever house he builds will be a house of death, always creating new problems to be solved by a hero."
ART CREDITS: Parsifal, by Willy Pogany ~1912 via The Art of Narrative; 1895 painting by Edwin Austin Abbey shows the Arthurian knight Sir Galahad via National Geographic; Theseus by Edward Burne Jones of the hero, Theseus, following Adriane's clews (the unfurling thread of inspiration in form of little clues and cues) to root out the Minotaur, and find his way back via the very beguiling website on Hellenic literature-from article "Theseus and the Minotaur are One."