Education, Responsibility, and Joseph Campbell

Education, flowing from the hearts and minds of gentle, aware teachers, has provided me with an experience of consciousness and culture for which I am responsible:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. 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 within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

These are Joseph Campbell’s words to Bill Moyers in his interviews titled, “The Power of Myth”. Reading these interviews is building on my conviction that I am responsible for my home and my people and all the investments of multi-formed love they have bestowed upon my life. Campbell tells Moyers that, “One of our problems today is that we are not well acquainted with the literature of the spirit.”

In the US almost everyone is acquainted with Jesus and the Bible, but few have heard the words of Plato, Confucius, the Buddha, Goethe and even fewer understand the truth Campbell spent his life communicating concerning the power of myth. Myth voices its continual presence in virtually every dimension of life; it is there hidden beneath the veneer of even the most mundane matters of experience. Campbell said that the ‘guiding idea’ of his work was to find “the commonality of themes in world myths, pointing to a constant requirement in the human psyche for a centering in terms of deep principles.” I’ll just plagiarize Bill Moyer’s for a second because its so good:

The images of God are many, he said, calling them ‘the masks of eternity’ that both cover and reveal ‘the Face of Glory.’ He wanted to know what it means that God assumes such different masks in different cultures, yet how it is that comparable stories can be found in these divergent traditions–stories of creation, of virgin births, incarnations, death and resurrection, second comings, and judgment days. He liked the insight of the Hindu scripture: ‘Truth is one; the sages call it by many names.’

One the guiding sources of inspiration flowing into my life is from AA. A distilled form of the deep meaning behind so many religious traditions, it is culturally relevant, adequate, and resonant; it has momentum – it moves people toward the realm of the spirit despite religious preference or prejudice; it offers a broad rite of passage and it is a channel for the mythological experience in an age bereft of spiritual direction. AA has been the place I have found my story or passage into adulthood. My lingering prayer is that my education and the sense of responsibility I carry will lead me into a greater expression of service. The distance between my potential and my actuality continues to shrink and I trust that movement will continue as I show up for life… after all Campbell says: “Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of human life.”

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