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Reply To: Truth or Consequences,” with Gabrielle Basha, MFA”



You write ” I almost feel like Campbell’s description of Truth has been weaponized, or at the very least conflated, in a really unhelpful way, with fact.” Indeed, that’s always the danger with myth, as Joseph Campbell mentions in the note he wrote on completion of all four volumes of The Masks of God tetralogy.

And I can see no reason why anyone should suppose that in the future the same motifs already heard will not be sounding still — in new relationships indeed, but ever the same motifs. They are all given here, in these volumes, with many clues, besides, suggesting ways in which they might be put to use by reasonable men to reasonable ends — or by poets to poetic ends — or by madmen to nonsense and disaster.”

Noted Cormac McCarthy scholar Rick Wallach, at the University of Miami – who began his career assisting Joseph Campbell back in the 1960s, and also happens to be Jewish – noted in a personal communication to me that Campbell wrote the four volumes of The Masks of God as his response to the horror of the Holocaust (there is no better example of mythological motifs manipulated “by madmen to nonsense and disaster”).

I’ll use that as a segue to the theme of your essay – community.

Adolf Hitler and the countrymen who bought into his Aryan fantasy shared an aberrant, warped view of community – “just Aryans, just us” – an extremist view experiencing a resurgence today. Much as I appreciate your focus on communities that “lean into” the work required to build upon our shared experience, these extremist visions are not only still out there, but they are proliferating.

No doubt those of us here prefer the vision you share. At some point, though, we need to take account of these shadow communities. How, apart from reliving the Civil War and/or World War II, do we engage that mindset and invite those who hold it into a more nurturing, nourishing, vibrant community?

I wish I knew the answer to that . . .