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Reply To: The Boundary-Blurring Nature of Myth,” with Bradley Olson, Ph.D.”


    Bradley, so glad to be back with you, this is a great topic and one that addresses, at least in my mind how one thinks about some of Joseph’s major themes concerning how the individual interprets their inner world and their relationship to the outer world in which they are enclosed. Boundaries and the way we see them have much to do with the individual’s interpretation of their reality and how they navigate their life. And indeed, one could say these boundaries may be quite difficult to keep separate as they have a distinct ability to cross over each other throughout a human lifetime and the life crisis that are often a huge part of the dilemmas or gordian knots they must sort out.

    Right from the beginning of the child’s evolutionary stages the individual is forming an identity and the way they see themselves which will have a distinct impact on their decision-making process throughout the course of their life. This process of inner growth continues through every type of decision they make will have to do with how they can navigate these inner lines that define where so many things begin and end. Also, there is the matter of how many of these definitions can change as well. (My name is so and so, I was a child and now I am coming into adulthood, what am I going to do with my life, and then later getting married and becoming a parent, and still later after that of coming into retirement.)

    Conflicts between ideas of definitions and their resolution are also involved with the blurring of boundaries. I am a parent, but also part of a relationship which now becomes “a we” instead of an “I”; and (we) now have a child we are responsible for. Just the idea of marriage is enough to complicate this whole idea of what “me or I” represent; not to mention how the child understands who they are to become. (Relationships can really complicate self-perception matters even more so; but back to the individual identity.)

    I think Joseph’s idea of the Hero and the alchemy involved of the individual becoming who they can be through the Journey/Adventure process; that of answering the individual’s inner “call” to seek this thing outlines at much of the root of the human dilemma. By that I mean that throughout one’s life there will be tests and problems to resolve with no clear lines of where one thing ends or another begins. There will be Dark Forests and no visible paths to follow, only the inner thing that drives you and you must follow this “Bliss” thing that gives you meaning and purpose; that is if you’ve chosen the “path that is no path” and much of the time you have absolutely no idea of the: “what, where, or how” all of this is going to turn out or where it will lead you or what you are doing. (As the famous baseball catcher, Yogi Berra, once said: “When you come to a fork in the road take it.”

    Today, more than ever I think Joseph’s theme of the Left-Hand Path of the Hero has life restoring and vivifying qualities at a time when the world seems to be coming off its’ railings. This is very different from the Right Hand Path of the Village Compound, which is to say, if you have based your life decisions on what is talking to you from your insides; your bliss path of being true to yourself and your own value systems instead of what others are telling you what is right, then your life will reflect that.

    So often I think people get tied up in emotional knots where lines and boundaries become so blurred they have no idea how to get out of the “House of Mirrors” they are enclosed in. They are deep in the Labyrinth Cave and have lost their Adriadne Thread and their Minotaur lies deep in the center waiting for them and they feel lost and alone with no way out. And I think Juan’s point about “Synchronicity” has an excellent connection to this topic point about boundaries and blurred lines.

    So much of my life has been tied to this inner metamorphosis, and it wasn’t until late mid-life through an encounter with a “synchronistic moment” I came across Joseph Campbell, and a path forward opened up that I have been following ever since. Each of us has a story, and Joseph’s idea of a “personal myth”; (which is what much of this idea is about), was truly life changing. For some religion will work for them, but religion can also cause huge problems within human peaceful co-existence; not to mention the individual ideas about their own meaning and purpose.

    Easter and May Day is always a difficult time for me; especially this year because it was 50 years ago my mother committed suicide; (the particulars I will not go into). And all these last few days there have been continuing clues tapping me on the shoulder as reminders I needed to revisit it; some from my family and the most powerful being the suicide of a famous music celebrity; (Naomi Judd); just before she and her daughter were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. More than ever it helped me to reconcile the relationship between one’s outer and inner world; that of the outer self-image of persona and the inner world of one’s own self-esteem and the questions that were posed from their results. I say this because both this person and my mother suffered from deep debilitating depression, and I had also suffered from this condition for much of my life as well. The good news is that Jung and Joseph have helped me in ways that none of the earlier treatment I had gotten as a child had even come close to working. And indeed this was definitely true for my mother as well for she slipped out of her treatment facility determined to end her pain after close to two decades of treatment. No one in my family was spared from the emotional turmoil that was connected to her life. (And Suicide and Depression has now become a major problem which is finally being talked about. But there are still many miles left to travel before society will truly understand the depths and seriousness of these issues that surround this aspect of the human condition.)

    In my humble opinion Joseph Campbell’s themes offer real hope for the future, and I can only say how much his work has truly helped me over the years and will continue to do so until my journey’s end. This is a great way you have framed this subject Bradley, and I definitely look forward to what you and everyone has to say about it.