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Reply To: Tossing the Golden Ball,” with mythologist Catherine Svehla, Ph.D.”


    Catherine. I want to add a quick addendum concerning my reference to Don Quixote which may have seemed somewhat difficult to understand relating to why I used Chivalry as a behavioral model in Arthurian context and brought up the Cervantes character of this crazy old man imitating a knight out to restore a lost age.

    Below is a piece of content I used in a separate MythBlast conversation in which I quoted Joseph Campbell’s thoughts from a question Bill Moyers asked in the: “Power of Myth”.


    “I wanted to briefly bring up Don Quixote because there is an insightful thing Joseph mentions in his conversation with Bill Moyers in “The Power of Myth” that I think applies not only to this mythic realm they are discussing; (for instance knights, chivalry, and psychosis); but how we as individuals might think about play as it relates to this “Wasteland” we all have to deal with in the modern world; especially now more than ever.

    On page 129 they are discussing the hero’s call and how it evokes one’s character, and that actually the adventure is a manifestation of one’s character because the quest is something that person is ready for and it’s how they respond to it that affects and helps to determine its’ possible outcome. Now we get into the challenge of living within a system, because everyone has to figure out how to meet and assimilate this challenge to create a life for themselves. This is important because as he said people have stopped listening to themselves- and herein lies the risk of the call of the left-hand path of the hero instead of staying warm and cozy in the village compound of the right-hand path. They may risk a mental crackup because the heart is not always interested in just following the herd and doing what one is told. People are not herd animals or slaves to social ideals unless they choose to be so. Something tells them inside this is all wrong; but maybe they have responsibilities that cannot be ignored; and the below is not about finding a hobby because that is not what is working on them from inside themselves.”

    I don’t want to quote the whole conversation; just a few paragraphs should give you a general idea of what he is talking about. On page 130 Moyers asks:

    “So perhaps the hero lurks in each one of us when we don’t know it?

    Campbell: “Our life evokes our character. You find out more about yourself as you go on. That’s why it is good to put yourself in situations that will evoke your higher nature rather than your lower. “Lead us not into temptation.”

    “Oretga y Gasset talks about the environment and the hero in his “Meditations on Don Quixote”. Don Quixote was the last hero of the Middle Ages. He rode out to encounter giants, but instead of giants, his environment produced windmills. Ortega points out that this story takes place about the time that a mechanistic interpretation of the world came in, so that the environment is no longer spiritually responsive to the hero. The hero of today is running up against a hard world that is in no way responsive to his spiritual need.”

    Moyers: “A windmill?”

    “Yes, but Quixote saved the adventure for himself by inventing a magician who had just transformed the giants he had gone forth to encounter into windmills. You can do that too, if you have a poetic imagination. Earlier, though, it was not a mechanistic world in which the hero moved but a world alive and responsive to his spiritual readiness. Now it has become to such an extent a sheerly mechanistic world, as interpreted through our physical senses, Marxist sociology, and behavioristic psychology, that we’re nothing but a predictable pattern of wires responding to stimuli. This nineteenth-century interpretation has squeezed the freedom of the human will out of modern life.”

    Moyers: “In the political sense, is there a danger that these myths of the heroes teach us to look at the deeds of others as if we were in an amphitheater or coliseum or a movie, watching others perform great deeds while consoling ourselves to impotence?”

    Campbell: “I think this is something that has overtaken us only recently in this culture. The one who watches athletic games instead pf participating in athletics is involved in surrogate achievement. But when you think about what people are actually undergoing in our civilization, you realize it’s a very grim thing to be a modern human being. The drudgery of the lives of most of the people who have to support families—well it’s a life-extinguishing affair.”