Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lit Matters: Joseph Campbell and the rapture of being alive

March 18, 2015 by Keagan Hawthorne, contributing writer

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“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are,” said Joseph Campbell, an American philosopher, lecturer, and writer best known for his work in comparative mythology.

Campbell’s books about mythology, like The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Masks of God, have had a large popular influence on artists, writers, philosophers, and even Hollywood. The original Star Wars Trilogy was inspired by Campbell’s thoughts on the heroic archetype and the mythic motif of a journey or quest.

As a comparative mythologist, Campbell looked for answers to humanity’s enduring questions in the stories told all over the world and throughout time. By finding the common threads woven through the myths of vastly different cultures, Campbell found human answers to tough questions like “what does it mean to love?” and “why do we die?”

He believed that we reveal ourselves by the stories we tell and that by listening closely to the stories of others we can better know ourselves.

Campbell’s most famous piece of advice was “follow your bliss.” By doing what we are most passionate about, we express our most authentic selves and are better citizens of the world. This isn’t a call to embrace hedonism, however, as often the journey that fills us with passion is a difficult path.

But, ultimately, Campbell didn’t believe that spending one’s life looking for hard-fast meaning was a good use of our time here on earth.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life,” he explained. “I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Joseph Campbell must-read:
The Power of Myth
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