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Reply To: The Hero’s Journey in Contemporary Literature/Fantasy

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I appreciate Johanna’s perspective on suffering and the Passion of Christ (the biblical tale of Job, also, depicts unjustified suffering – which indeed seems the lot of all humans).

Campbell describes Christ on the Cross as a bodhisattva figure (describing what he terms the bodhisattva formula as “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world”)

“All life is sorrowful” is the first Buddhist saying, and so it is. It wouldn’t be life if there weren’t temporality involved, which is sorrow – loss, loss, loss. You’ve got to say yes to life and see it as magnificent this way; for this is surely the way God intended it …

It is joyful just as it is. I don’t believe there was anybody who intended it, but this is the way it is. James Joyce has a memorable line: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” And the way to wake from it is not to be afraid, and to recognize that all of this, as it is, is a manifestation of the horrendous power that is of all creation. The ends of things are always painful. But pain is part of there being a world at all …

“I will participate in the game. It is a wonderful, wonderful opera – except that it hurts.”

(Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, 1988 Doubleday edition, pp. 80-81)

Myth certainly points in this direction – but also literature. I’m all for reviving the vitality of myth; in our secular age, however, a case can be made that it’s literature that speaks to the human condition and serves (along with certain films) as the medium for myth today.