Thursday, February 23, 2012

*Follow Your What?*

I saw the new documentary about Joseph Campbell (really, more of a rehash of Campbell's basic philosophies as interpretted by various self-help and likewise gurus) the other night at a local independent theatre. Center for Symbolic Studies and Campbell biographer Stephen Larsen apologized in advance for the film's shoestring budget. "Don't expect Steven Spielberg," he quipped. But perhaps it was those limited funds that made the film all the more moving for me. Children in costumes gathered perhaps from their own play supplies were used to dramatize the various concepts and the basic path of the Hero, a core image of Campbell's work and the common thread he found in most of the mythologies of the world.

Sprinkled in were clips from some of the many Hollywood films that incorporate the Hero's journey. Many might surprise you, such as "Casablanca" and "The Wizard of Oz". The latter should not have surprised me, since for years I've recognized its blatant similarities to "Star Wars." George Lucas makes no secret of having based Luke Skywalker's adventures on Campbell's work. The Hero's path is circular, and includes confrontation, evolution and passing the story along. In Hollywood circles, this formula makes for easy multiple sequels. In real life, the journey is not so clear cut.

"Follow Your Bliss," is the ringing refrain in Campbell's writings and interviews. But what if your bliss is just not commercially viable? What if you've spent the first fifty years of your life picking away at the edges of it, fitting in all the other journeys around it that seem to have brought you to this brick wall? Poetry is truly the only activitiy that I feel totally alive during, totally engaged. I am certainly not the best poet in the world, nor will I ever be. As I age, I do, however,have more and more to share in my own work. I have been on a few paths, many of which have felt like less than heroic endeavors. Poetry has never been my primary concern, but it has been the thing that makes most of the rest of life tolerable.

Over the last few months, these passings in my life have served to not only scare me away from toying with the romantic notion of ending my own, but to encourage me to cut away the extraneous clutter that has accumulated around me and devote more time to the heart of it all. I will never be in a better position financially, even with unemployment as my sole income at the moment. My mortgage is miniscule, and my wants are truly few. I have a basement to clear out, papers to put in order, poems to write. The office is next, to organize and truly make into a space of productivity, not merely impressive looking storage!

I still look for a day gig. I have to. "Follow Your Bliss," simply won't pay that tiny mortgage, and unemployment is bound to be cut off sometime. But I do have the time now to get a few projects back on track. I am well into the horse chapbook, the first collection I've done writing to a theme instead of putting random poems together after the fact. I am also thrilled to have two other chapbooks coming out this year. Still, I must be somewhat practical.

Can I hold bliss in my heart, know what's the fire that drives my engine while still spending my days raking the yard and washing dishes? Are these things all part of the one and same journey? What can I tell others about the paths I've taken so far?

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