Hello John, it’s so nice to have you here among us. I’ll start off with something you just mentioned and see if I can pull something else into this discussion that I think may address both your question and what many others may be thinking about these days on a variety of issues; and that is “meaning”.
“I wonder if anyone else might have thoughts about the intersection between riddles, games, and myth?”
And it just so happens I looked over at the page border and saw Joseph’s famous quote:
” I don’t think people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive”
A synchronistic moment for my answer perhaps, but I think very relevant none-the-less given the effect that Covid is having on society and that of the Christmas holidays swiftly approaching and politics stirring up everyone’s emotions. So; I want to dive a bit deeper into this subject and what might seem as a subjective approach, because this is a time of year emotions tend to run very high, and not only spiritual and mythic themes play into it; but personal interpretations and anxiety have a tendency to conjure up “crisis” points as well as: epiphanies, family gatherings, and over-stretched stomachs from eating too much.
So, I’ll start with a little story from last year’s holiday experiences, and how the same themes I experienced then resurfaced
the other night in a deep discussion about a tragedy on the news many are still talking about concerning the Oxford shooting. Wow, you might say, what in the world is he talking about? (That’s a hell of a leap from riddles, games, and myths!)
So last year I was deep in thought for a number of days about mythic themes, personal myths, Christmas stories, and what these things are attempting to communicate to us in reference to Joseph’s ideas. I remember Joseph use to set aside his birthday to celebrate his own personal myth with giving seminars with Sam Keen in helping others to connect and figure out what their own mythic stories were. And I thought to myself; “what if I just pay attention to what stories I run into during this time and see what they have to tell me about who I am.” (You know; what kinds of memories are conjured up and what kinds of moods they put me in and let these stories work on me.) Well three stories in particular we usually run into annually just nailed me to the wall because of the way I applied them, so, I’ll try and explain what I’m getting at.
Two had to with transformation, value systems, and personal history; and the third was a metaphor delivered by an upcoming movie commercial called: “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”. Sounds strange I know, but bear with me because all three deal with some sort of deep psychological condition that separates them from reality. The first I will call: “Finding Scrooge”; because it had to do with 3 visitations; each delivering a message about his life that he must assimilate to save himself from living a life that had lost its’ meaning. The second one I will call: “Finding Clarence”; because it had to with a visitation of a second-class Angel trying to get his wings and charged with helping George Bailey from committing suicide by showing him who he really was instead of being a failure and the real beauty of the life he was living no matter how bad things seemed.
Now the third was a bit different because it involved a script writer who had made an earlier film about Don Quixote years ago and went back to the village where it was filmed to see if the character who was originally a cobbler and had played Quixote was still around. Well, it turns out he had been so psychologically immersed in the character he literally fell into a psychosis with the role; and became the character and saw this director as Sancho Panza. So; the adventure really starts there; but along the way the underlying themes begin to reveal themselves; and just like the book the viewer is informed about who they are underneath the perceived or normal landscape in which everything is playing out. (There is also a play within a play as the movie’s actual Director, Terry Guilliam; went through a whole series of obstacles which took 10 years to actually make the film. (A true quest within itself) But I digress.
So less than a week ago this horrific student tragedy occurred by a young student who had lost touch with reality; and whose parents were clueless. And the understanding that ties all of these dynamics together is this mythic landscape behind the scenes is not the same as the everyday one we inhabit; and how we as individuals interpret the life we are living is transformed. By that, what I’m attempting to illustrate is that when “myth” and landscape interact the psyche gets involved; and how we as individuals see reality and who we are; (as opposed to who we think we are); the contextual meaning of our lives; because of this experience becomes translated and transformed.
A rather clumsy attempt at description I know; but let me provide a couple of short clips that might help to smooth this out so I can make my point.
First George Bailey and Clarence explained in a reminiscence by Jimmy Stewart and Johnny Carson.
And then another one in a promo clip of the film about Don Quixote modernized.
So, the world we are experiencing right now is going through horrendous change; yet the values being expressed are both mythical and timeless or universal in the messages they are delivering. And whether by poignant story, humorous insight, or deep tragedy these things connect us as human beings in ways we can barely understand on levels most of the time we can hardly even sense much less comprehend, and yet we become transformed. Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, George Bailey, or the mythical Don Quixote, although experience in itself may be the initial goal provides deep meaning along the way, like Carl Jung hints at about individuation. (In other words what we are experiencing is not about reaching a particular destination or accomplishing a mission in a larger sense, but both the rapture and experience of being alive which “bring” us the meaning we are seeking as we look back over it; (that is if we’ve been paying attention and doing our best; because in the end that’s what the myths are telling us to do for the most part anyway). Sorry for going on so much but you get the general idea I hope.
So, again my apologies if I’ve taken this topic too far away from James Joyce; but I think right now we need Joseph Campbell’s work more than ever. And these little stories were for me an example of just how profound his insights have been for me to see things in a different way. For in a time where the uncertainty of Covid, the unstable state of politics, global warming and climate change, or the individual psychological calamities that may lie waiting for some unknown trigger to take any one of us into unknown dimensions we must find our way out of; the breadcrumb trails he has left behind for us offer: hope, joy, and possibility to what could otherwise seem so very difficult to attain.
I’ll leave you with one more mystical tale for the holidays that may add a bit of cheer to end this with. It’s one you may already be familiar with; but I use to post it in Michael Lambert’s Christmas thread every year back on the old CoaHO; and I think symbolizes much of what these Forums represent looking forward. It’s a song about something very special that happened on Christmas Eve a long time ago. Merry Christmas to everyone as the holidays approach.
Again; so glad to have you here among us and thank you so much for the work you are doing with the Foundation. Merry Christmas