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Reply To: Would Joe Campbell Challenge Us?


Difficult to determine what Joseph Campbell would do and say today, but I do believe he would remain relatively consistent – which to me suggests his challenge for most of us would be to “say yea to it all”:

Well, I’ll tell you. This is a big confession. I’m a minority of one. I think what’s happening is okay. I’m very optimistic. And I tend to like what’s going on. Most of my intellectual friends are superior to it. I’m not. War? Fine. The human race lives in a way that may not be comfortable to all of us, but this is the way life has proceeded. And for me I say yes. I don’t think the world has to be corrected. . . . The very attempt to correct the world is what complicates it. I mean, they’re part of the problem. And, then that’s fine. One says, Yes, that’s the way it is.

Well that – good people killing people in wars – the wars of conquest began about 2350 B.C. in the Near East and that’s the hot spot today. Seems to be the tendency in that part of the world more than any place else. And that’s the result of tribalism. But I’m not the one to say this should not have been. There’s a line in Schopenhauer’s World as Will and Idea where he says, ‘Life is something that should not have been.’ And I think that’s what a lot of people really feel. Because of the way it goes, it’s reprehensible, holocausts and other things of the kind. Storms that wash California into the sea.

I just write my books. I feel that what I have to say is something that suggests the harmony of peoples. That it’s a symphony of celebration of mankind that we find in the myths. And I know that what I have written already has made a little bit of a dent. But you can’t turn yourself into Hercules to carry the globe on your back, and say, ‘What are you doing, and now gonna do with it.’ You’ve got a little job, and do it well. That’s all I can see that anybody would do. And if you think the thing to do is to reform the world politically, go into politics. Personally I don’t think that’s the best way to make a difference . . .

Now I’ve started a little society and this is probably the place to advertise it. It’s called the Society To Stop the Continental Drift. I don’t think you realize the seriousness of this thing. In a couple of hundred years, Santa Barbara is going to be up by Nome, Alaska. What’s that going to do with the ecology, and everything else in the United States? I don’t know anybody who’s really taking this seriously enough to do anything about it. ”

(Excerpted from a question and answer session at Esalen with Fritjof Capra and Sogyal Rinpoche)

I’m willing to bet that seeming indifference (the operative word is “seeming”) to activism would be difficult for many Campbell followers, myself included, to fully embrace today, though I can’t help but appreciate the humor with which he makes his point in that final paragraph.