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A Joseph Campbell companion

by Keith Barber

On a recent Saturday morning, I awoke to find my life in disarray. The details are not important but suffice it to say the source of my angst and confusion remains one of the great mysteries of human life — relationships between men and women. My head felt fuzzy. I had taken an all-natural herbal sleep aid the previous night and it left me feeling groggy.

That night marked the first time in a very long time I had difficulty sleeping and the feeling of detachment underscored my sense of being on unsteady emotional footing.

I grabbed my coffee and switched on my computer. Seeing no new messages in either my facebook or gmail accounts, I navigated to goodreads.com, a literary website that contains, among other things, a collection of quotes by mythology scholar Joseph Campbell.

With the publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949, Campbell inspired a generation of storytellers by articulating the “monomyth” or the singular story of the hero’s journey that’s been told over and over again in every culture since time eternal. Joseph Campbell’s disciples include some of the greatest filmmakers ever including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. To see the best example of a true cinematic interpretation of the12 stages of the hero’s journey, watch the original Star Wars.

Campbell inspired a generation of storytellers by articulating the “monomyth” or the singular story of the hero’s journey that’s been told over and over again in every culture since time eternal.

The Campbell quote at the top of the page read, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Letting go — that’s a tough one, I thought, especially when you can’t figure out what’s happening in your emotional life. But in the days hence, I’ve come to realize the mistakes I made in my relationship. By focusing so heavily on the outcome,

I wasn’t fully appreciating the journey. I was missing the entire point of the adventure of being in a relationship.

By the end of that Saturday, I had come up with a quote of my own.

“Fighting the will of the universe is both humbling and exhausting,” I wrote.

The inspiration for this quote was the understanding that I had been waging an uphill battle for months — a battle I had no chance to win. My stubbornness was pure ego and it took a metaphorical punch in the gut to get my attention.

As I began the painful process of dismantling my ego and looking inward to see how I was the creator of my situation, I realized I wasn’t alone.

“It’s nice to wake up with the realization that the universe always has your back,” I wrote the following day.

As the days passed, I could feel the supportof the universe. I reached out to thepeople in my life, and they responded witha tremendous amount of love. I felt a guidingforce in my life throughout those days.Friends and loved ones called me out of theblue — many of whom had no idea whatwas going on in my life. For a day or so,I mistakenly believed that all the love andpassion I had invested in my relationshiphad added up to nothing and I was deeplydiscouraged.Had I been living a lie? Were the feelingsI perceived in my loved one merely romanticprojections of my own making? Did shelead me on intentionally?When I awoke that morning, the answersto all my questions were unknowable.Over the course of the next seven days, theuniverse would teach me why I made thechoices that brought me to this point.I accepted that I could not control theactions of others, and I had to cope withfeeling of being cut off from love — a feelingthat had its source in my childhood.That feeling of being cut off led to anger, alot of it. Once the anger passed, however,I made a shift in my energy, which led to achange in how I perceived myself and theuniverse felt the new vibration.

I heeded Campbell’s sage advice. Aspainful as it was to let go of my loved oneand what we shared, I realized I had nochoice.“If you do follow your bliss, you putyourself on a kind of track that has beenthere all the while, waiting for you, and thelife you ought to be living is the one you areliving,” Campbell writes. “Follow you blissand don’t be afraid, and doors will openwhere you didn’t know they were going tobe.”This quote brought forth the soberingrealization that I have not been followingmy bliss. My first love is filmmaking. Theworld premiere of my documentary film,Any Given Friday, at the Reynolda FilmFestival last year ranks as one of the peakexperiences of my life.My close friends and family suggested Istop focusing on what my ex-girlfriend didand instead look closely at my part in creatinga situation that caused me so much pain.Experience has taught me that everyonehas a void to fill, and that we often mistakenlybelieve that the love of another canmake us feel whole. I am the only personwho can fill my void, and the only thingthat works is self-love. The best expressionof self-love is following your bliss. Once Icame to that place, I read this, “Where youstumble and fall, there you will find gold.” I poured out my heart and soul to myex-girlfriend during our time together. Imade the greatest emotional investment ofmy life, and it was a time of growth. Wheneverything came crashing down, I thoughtI was alone. But soon I realized I was atone with the universe. In the days since, Ihave come to learn that her feelings wereequally strong and true; that her emotionalinvestment was just as great as mine if notgreater; and where I thought I had stumbledand fallen, I found the greatest treasure ofall — the courage to be the man I was destinedto be.

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