After a decade or so since I last devoured his books, these last few weeks I’ve been happily, gloriously rediscovering the work of Joseph Campbell, the famed mythologist.
My story is a common one among Campbell fans. A clueless, socially inept, lost kid with no idea about what to do or where to fit in the world, and suddenly along comes Joe Campbell with three simple, life-changing words:
“Follow Your Bliss”.
Boom! A moment of total clarity. A moment of incandescent lucidity.
Of course! FOLLOW YOUR BLISS! What else is there worth doing, besides that? How better to spend one’s life?
At the time, it made total sense. I mean, REALLY!!!!….
I only first heard of Joseph Campbell the day I read his obituary, back in 1987 (A fact that still makes me sad, I’m not quite sure why). I then checked him out at the bookstore, and I found his work, quite frankly, mind-blowing. Transformative!
A floodgate of possibility being opened. Whoosh! Like being hit by a spiritual tidal wave.
But the thing is…
Joseph may have told me to follow my bliss, but he never told me how. He really didn’t have to many concrete tips or pointers. He just told his readers to just do it.
Much to our chagrin, it was something we were just going to have to figure out all by ourselves…
I was a bit intimidated by that. I think we all are, when we first encounter Campbell’s work. Do we have what it takes, do we have the guts to take what he said, make the necessary sacrifices etc etc and ACTUALLY apply it to our own lives?
I remember that fear well, a quarter century later…
So, now that I’m older, now that it seems I’ve followed my bliss pretty well, and it also seems to have panned out pretty OK for me creatively and careerwise, I now have young people asking me the very same question that Joseph’s students once asked him- “How do I do follow my bliss?”
Experience taught me well that there’s is no definitive answer. There is no instruction manual.
You just decide to do it, and then you go and do it. Or not. Whatever. It’s your call. It’s your path.
And it takes as long as it takes. Decades, maybe. An entire lifetime, even. There is no timeline. Nor any guarantees that you’ll succeed.
Nobody can do it for you. Nobody can go there for you- that mysterious place where the central energy of your being finds its source. Yes, you may fail in your quest to find it. But that risk is what makes it so damn powerful and interesting.
And Joseph Campbell would’ve told you the exact same thing.
Thinking about this earlier this evening, I drew the above cartoon just for the heck of it. I hope you like it, but I’m fine if you don’t.. Those little squiggly abstract drawings I do; well, that’s my bliss. Your bliss is something else. Your bliss is your own, not mine or anyone else’s.
Bliss. You have it within you, we already know that. The question is what you’re going to do about it.
Thank you, Joseph Campbell. Thank you all for reading. Godspeed!