January 26, 2022 at 12:58 am #74544Stephen GerringerKeymaster
Mythologist Leigh Melander, Ph.D., has graciously consented to join us this week in Conversations of a Higher Order to discuss “Cunneware’s Laugh: The Enticement of Delight” (click on title to read), the most recent MythBlast entry. Leigh holds a doctorate in cultural mythology and psychology, and has served on JCF’s Board of Directors, including a term as Vice President, as well as guiding the early development of JCF’s MythBlast series. She is also the host of the Myth America podcast, which is part of JCF’s MythMaker Podcast Network.
I will get the ball rolling, but please remember that this is not an interview. This thread is an opportunity for you to converse directly with Dr. Melander, asking questions and sharing your comments and observations with her (and with each other), which is what makes this a “conversation of a higher order.”
Leigh – your essay is a sheer delight (pun intended, and on point). Your essay opens with a focus on “the frivolous dilettante” who makes an unlikely hero, and concludes with this observation:
This is the way of the dilettante hero: to follow the enticement of delight, in this case, moved by the lightness of laughter, to what enchants you most deeply.”
This resonates with the Joseph Campbell quote posted this week on JCF’s home page:
Realize what play is. Participate in the play, in the play of life. This is known as mahāsukha, the Great Delight.”
I happen to know that you take frivolity most seriously (pun intended), including researching and writing a doctoral dissertation on the subject. Given a multitude of commitments have precluded a more active role with JCF in recent years, perhaps as a means of re-introduction you could share what it is about frivolity that first drew your interest, and why this often overlooked perspective is so important to both mythology and psychology?January 27, 2022 at 5:26 pm #74555
I’m delighted to be back in MythBlast land – as Steve alluded to, I was the first editor of this series while I sat on the JCF Board, and am really in awe of what it’s grown into under Brad Olson’s leadership. And I’m looking forward to chatting here with you all in COHO!
Ah, frivolity. So many things… I’ll try to be reasonably brief, and spare you the whole dissertation.
I came at frivolity as a way to blow open the need to be big, important, to ‘matter’ – particularly as we imagine. I think it can free us up from being fixated on outcomes, and accordingly blow out barriers to imagining. (It also felt like the perfect response to the existential question, “what possible use could a doctorate in myth have?” It’s a rather exquisitely frivolous degree…)
I think this is important as we work -and play – myth. It’s so easy for it all to be so portentous and heavy, and I think we can get weighed down by that and lose the point. I got inspired by an idea from Kant, in Critique of Judgment, on the ‘purposefulness of purposelessness.’ I transmuted this a bit into the ‘point of pointlessness.’ I love the koan in this, the paradox – I think myth holds so much paradox – and I love what opens when we sit in the dissonance of it. I think that’s where the juice lies in myth – in that opening, that dissonance.
On a praxis level, part of why I think frivolity matters when we’re thinking mythically is how it can shape the art of seeing. I talk a lot about ‘seeing through’ as the action of working with myth. Frivolity invites us to see the things out of the corners of our eyes (BTW, check out Ed Casey’s writings on the glance if this intrigues you).
A little excerpt from my book Psyche’s Choice:
Frivolity is, simply, is a move off center. It is a turn left when a world tells you that it is most responsible to march forward. How powerful this is, in its small way! Take a moment and look up from the screen you’re reading this on. Look around you. What do you see? What’s in front of you? What’s the view, what are the barriers, what is keeping you in or out or on track or off of it? Now simply turn yourself to the left and look in front of you. Suddenly, the world is a different place. Frivolity is that small and that explosive a move. Turn left and the world is different. Frivolity is the light, the quicksilver, the jester – David wearing a clown nose as he faces the giant and takes him down – a delightful bit of fluff that paradoxically opens the universe to infinity in its very smallness. And like the jester, frivolity doesn’t take itself seriously, even as it pokes at the seriousness around it. It flips about flippantly, inviting us to take ourselves lightly as well.
Ultimately, it’s a rebellious move. The word ‘frivol’ comes from the same etymological roots as ‘revel’ and ‘rebel.’
I think this rebelliousness matters when we’re in the world of myth, too. I think we always need to be pushing at our assumptions of what it is and how it works in our psyches, so it becomes a force of ongoing questions that open our sense of the world, rather than a set of dogmas by which we should live.
Yours in liberté, egalité, frivolité…
LeighJanuary 31, 2022 at 1:37 pm #74554
Leigh; so wonderful to have you here with us. I love your topic on the “enticement of play”; and how it can be utilized in thinking about our inner world; especially in thinking about how we use this powerful tool of the psyche to entice the inner child in us to come out and play. Indeed, Carl Jung used “play” as Joseph has mentioned, to work through some of his most profound inner problems to find out what his “Personal Myth” was as he was writing his famous “Red Book”; and Joseph also mentioned how he utilized this psychological inner state in designing and creating his famous house at “Bollingen”.
Artists in all of the arts understand the value of Play; and indeed, when they engage in performance of their craft this is a central mental and emotional focus in bringing forth what is in them as they express their individual interpretation of their inner process of creation. In other words: they Play at what they are doing as they share their delight with the world; (although it is serious in some ways; but frivolous in others like a child expresses him or herself as they engage with their inner world in a state of pure wonder.
So, I’m wondering if you might share some of your thoughts on how you see or approach “play” in enticing one’s inner child to come out and play as a person deals with healing. We know sometimes one recommended method is for an individual to take up some form of self-expression to elicit or evoke the unconscious contents that have been locked away or buried deep inside one’s inner cave, labyrinth, or emotional prison and need expression so the unconscious can become conscious and integrate these unrealized parts of ourselves. And the shadow as archetype often in waking life as in dreams will sometimes express itself with hurt, anger, or pain because what’s been buried by repression is seeking its inner voice to be heard; and play can indeed be a form or tool to understand it’s message; (especially at night when we visit our inner child in dreams and all those hidden wishes and desires come out to play letting us know all their secrets through the toys of symbolism they communicate to us; which we have to figure out what they mean when we awake. So, I would love to hear any thoughts of yours on any of this if you feel it’s relevant to your topic.
Before I finish, I want to share one of the most moving and poignant examples of play I have ever witnessed that broadcast last night on television’s famous show: “60 Minutes” with Anderson Cooper focusing this particular segment on the process leading up to the last performance of international music icon: “Tony Bennett”; (who at 95 is now suffering from Alzheimer’s), accompanied by movie and recording artist: Lady Ga Ga at Radio City Music Hall. Truly one of the most amazing things I have ever seen; with Lady Ga Ga as tender and gentle guide enticing Bennett through his performance and final career performance exit. (As we know Alzheimer’s and Dementia produce childlike mental states that many seniors now suffer from.) So, this is a very interesting and thought-provoking; and to me a very profound example of the psyche’s ability to express itself through play. (I hope this approach is not too far off topic for I feel this idea of play in today’s mentally over stressed world addresses a deep inner need to connect with some of our innermost thoughts and wishes that long for expression in an increasingly technologically driven environment; that seeks to compartmentalize our ever-evolving mental and emotional life.January 31, 2022 at 11:10 pm #74553Stephen GerringerKeymaster
If you don’t mind, perhaps this quote will help set the tone for the question you are posing to Leigh:
Furthermore, the old in many societies spend a considerable part of their time playing with and taking care of the youngsters, while the parents delve and spin: so that the old are returned to the sphere of eternal things not only within but without. And we may take it also, I should think, that the considerable mutual attraction of the very young and the very old may derive something from their common, secret knowledge that it is they, and not the busy generation between, who are concerned with a poetic play that is eternal and truly wise.” (Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Vol. I: Primitive Mythology, 2021 Collected Works Edition, 114)
The Prologue to Primitive Mythology, along with Part One (“The Psychology of Myth”) should be essential reading for every Campbellophile: here Campbell focuses on the relationship of play to the origins of myth and ritual, drawing on the work of historian Johan Huizinga (author of Homo Ludens – “Man the Player”), among others.February 1, 2022 at 1:09 am #74552
James, thank you so much for your evocative post!
First, I love your description of Tony Bennett and Lady GaGa – it was a genuinely moving performance and interaction, and you’ve cast it in a light I hadn’t thought of. Beautiful.
To your question about play and healing – three ideas are emerging for me.
First, I am really intrigued with all of the ways that ‘play’ emerges in our thinking and language – as you say, artists play – and I love that musicians play instruments. And beyond our sense of ‘being playful’ – I think the image of play as movement – you leave some ‘play’ in things so they can function properly – like a wheel, for example. It’s leaving a bit of freedom – if it’s locked down too tight, it won’t turn.
Second, glimpses of the layers of play in the word’s etymology:
Middle English pleien, from Old English plegan, plegian “move lightly and quickly, occupy or busy oneself, amuse oneself; engage in active exercise; frolic; engage in children’s play; make sport of, mock; perform music,” from Proto-West Germanic *plegōjanan “occupy oneself about” (source also of Old Saxon plegan “vouch for, take charge of,” Old Frisian plega “tend to,” Middle Dutch pleyen “to rejoice, be glad,” German pflegen “take care of, cultivate”)
So much there! I’d love to hear what pops out for you in these various roots, and how they dance with each other.
And third: some of David Miller’s thoughts on the constructs of play from his book Gods and Games: Towards a Theology of Play (republished by David Kudler’s Stillpoint Press in 2019). The paradoxical quality of how David understands play really sings for me – and I think can open up the idea of play as a healing process in some interesting ways.
As he explores the mythology of play, David divides play into four categories, with subtitles both amplifying and refracting his message: Aesthesis: nonseriousness is the highest seriousness; Poeisis: fiction is the highest truth; Metamorphosis: change is the highest stability; Therapeia: purposeless is the highest purpose.
To me, this gets at the heart of what matters about play, and gives some guideposts to how it might connect with healing. I think this is exactly how children embrace play, instinctively. You mention dreams and play – I think this is what dreams do for adults.
I think, too, that opening ourselves to these paradoxes can be a powerful way to think of play therapy. In some ways, I think the paradoxes here are akin to the ‘play’ in a wheel – we can’t lock it down.
So, in a praxis way, I think if we embrace things that encourage us to play with/in these categories – whether it’s making, or gaming, or skipping, or simply inviting ourselves to frame our experiences in the moment in one or more of these ways, we can find some deep healing.
Thank you!February 1, 2022 at 1:12 am #74551
PS: Thank. you, too, Steve, for the Campbell quote. I think he was dead on.
When I lived in Ojai, I spent some time working with an organization that partnered up grandparents (or folks of grandparent age) and kids – both of whom were in need of the energies of the others. Part of the framing for the organization was what Campbell is talking about here – they were not caught up in the midlife busy-ness of work, but instead, were engaging in wise play.February 1, 2022 at 1:57 am #74550
Thank you, Stephen. That’s exactly one of the things I was attempting to explain. (And also, for helping me to better articulate some of my earlier thoughts and better express some of the things I was trying to get at.) One of Joseph’s points he continually stressed was we all have to live within a system. “Is the system going to eat you up and rob you of your humanity? Or are you going to be to use the system for human purposes. – “The Power of Myth” with Bill Moyers
Also, on different occasions he talked about utilizing one’s internal: “Sacred Space”; where one might explore and bring forth not only what they are but what they might become. Some might call this the imagination; but I think it is much more than that, and a place that both children and seniors hold in common with play. Perhaps concerning Alzheimer’s or Dementia I think somewhere Joseph may have mentioned drinking from the river “Lethe” to forget their past. I found this description on Google:
“Which river of the realm of the dead has a name that means forgetfulness?
In Greek and Roman mythology, Lethe was one of five rivers in the underworld, or the kingdom of the dead. Drinking from Lethe (whose name means “forgetfulness”) caused the souls of the dead to forget all knowledge of their previous lives.”February 1, 2022 at 6:06 am #74549
Leigh, so sorry I missed your kind and thoughtful response. Yes, this topic definitely evokes a lot in me for as a musician for over 45 years playing music was my life. But there was another life inside which I had forgotten about that called to me from deep below the surface which Joseph Campbell has helped me to understand; and a whole new journey has revealed itself over these recent years which he and Jung have helped me come to know. One that combines so many of the inner worlds that were not given a voice; and have tested and enriched me beyond what I had previously known. Each of us has inner things that reveal themselves as our life unfolds; and I had no idea how powerful they were. But all had something to show me about my life as they continue to still. As Jung said: “We are in a constant state of becoming”; and I think that’s very true.
Individuation what? I’d never heard of such a thing. And all those things you may or may not have paid attention to in school suddenly came alive with new meaning. I was trying to remember something I read concerning a David Miller piece called: “The fire is in the Mind” included in a SAGA book set of essays reviewed by Jonathon Young all about Campbell. A lot of heavy weight authors I’m sure you would recognize; but it’s a Parabola piece as I recall; and for some strange reason whenever I try to follow up a quote or something from them, there seems to be some kind of copywrite conflict or something between them and the foundation. (Stephen would know more about this than I would.) I love what Dennis Patrick Slattery says about this sort of thing; that “Hermes” is usually creating some kind of mischief.) I absolutely love his book on personal writing called: “Riting Myth/ Mythic Writing”.
(You are so kind with your suggestion and I’ve just book marked your piece for later.) During this pandemic I have developed a small addiction to Ebay and Amazon’s: “Buy now” buttons; and my book selections keep growing every time I see a new one, so I have to watch myself to stay within my monthly budget. Stephen has helped recommend so many great selections I’ll be reading forever; but that’s okay because the more I learn the more I understand “what is going on under the hood” so to speak. His recommendations on dreaming and other Jungian and Campbell topics have been enormously helpful in my understanding of these subjects; and my list keeps growing.
Right now, I am immersed in several writers: Mario Jacoby, Darryl Sharp, James Hall just on Jung alone; and my main focus lately has been trying to better understand the constellating influences between archetypes and complexes because they dictate so much of what our reactions are via emotional stimulus and content. Jacoby was head of the Jungian institute in Zurich for well over a decade and instructed other analysts about Jungian analysis. He wrote 5 books on this subject before he died in 2011; each connected to the other in theory. One of his major insights was the relationship of shame/anxiety as a complex that stimulates or constellates other complexes. He felt that early childhood development and the child’s early sense of self came out of some of these early complex inter-relationships such as the connection with the mother/father complexes. I am certainly no analyst, and I’ve got a lot more reading to do on this before I feel like I’ve got a good enough handle on his overall understanding of the Jungian cosmology and how it operates within this complex field; but Jung called shame: “the soul eating emotion”. (I love David’s: “Pathways to Bliss”; btw; which is one of my all-time favorites on Campbell); so, the learning never ends.
But back to “Play”; when I retired from my musical life after 45 years; I knew I had to find something to take its place as a creative outlet or I would go nuts. So, I took up photography and got deeply immersed in that using it as a narrative to compliment my personal story and to go with my private documentation as my personal legacy to give to my family when I pass. Everybody has a story if they want to look for it, and I documented all my personal mementos by digitizing them on to my hard drive where I can retrieve them at will; and now that I’m starting to get all this personal material organized perhaps something may come out of it at some point; but I’m not ready yet; and I’m anxious for this pandemic to ease up so I can finally get out and do some of the things I haven’t been able to once more. In other words, get out and “play” again. Play as therapy; I love that idea. What’s our therapy?February 4, 2022 at 1:01 am #74548
This is profoundly beautiful!
And these lines: “…turn left and the world is different….
The light, the quicksilver, the jester…
a delightful bit of fluff that paradoxically opens the universe to infinity in its smallness…”
It is a revelation captured in poetry, which in reflection feels more akin to holy fool than fluff.
I have truly enjoyed reading all the myth blasts on the JCF site written by the excellent alumni of mythologists, scholars/professors.
Now, There is something about your essay Leigh, which reminds me so much of the heart of Joseph Campbell’s writings and presentations. It’s that energy, which first called, inspired and informed me in the world of myth years ago. You have really captured the heart of what I remember about Joe Campbell!
I love the idea of “mutual compassion recognition instead of dominance.”
To me it seems a very innate thing.
(Coming from the heart…)
Interesting that Lady Cunnaware
alliteratively reminds one of “kenning”(knowing) and aware. Her laughter is profound as well as delighted and delightful.
And you mention “play and healing,” which also conjures a deeper aspect to laughter feeling good (laughter and well being.)
And Oh the paradoxes! When Parzival fails his journey the first time around, it seems to me, he has tried extra hard to learn all of the knightly ropes. And his earnest desire to keep with the code is blinding and deafening him to the deeper code within his own nature.
(yes maybe there are the ego issues of keeping up appearances as well—-“knights don’t ask questions”
But it’s almost as though Parzival comes to the place where after you learn the ropes…then the next step is to learn to let go? What one thought they knew they did not know…Except the honor and compassion is already inside of Parzival. And he refused the Call until the 2nd time around, when the land is healed. Yet Parzival had to step away from the Code of his Knightly order for a moment in order to be able to hear the deeper call that led to the healing of the land..something which as you suggest is already foretold in Cunneware’s laugh.
And the paradox is the expectation of the knightly code being the Center of every story. Not that chivalry isn’t a nice poetic contemplation at its best. But as evidenced by the violent and heavy handed (and even abusive behavior) in the court, exactly what kind of code is now being celebrated? And that is a very good reason to look beyond appearances and look through…as your essay and comments suggest. And all three characters Cunneware, Antanor and Parzival are seeing through. Even if Parzival is still learning.
Is the most paradoxical part of Parzival’s journey, the part where he has to put the code aside in order for the land to heal? In order to feel the prompt of compassion from his inner nature (and the universe?) That could seem counterintuitive at first. Except the true honor and code of a real knight is inside of Parzival. It does not come from the social order of the court.
Otherwise everything becomes “portentous and heavy…and weighed down…until one “loses the point,” as you say. And…
The point is not the constructs of civilization’s expectations and failings, but instead, an unfailing commitment to doing what is most right, most compassionate.
The quote you provide from Campbell clarifies this as well:
In Romance of the Grail, Campbell writes, “In Parzival, you are to follow your own nature, your own inspiration; following someone else will lead you only to ruin. That is the sense of Parzival’s journey…”
When Parzival adheres to his mind and others expectations…
the wasteland remains. When he peacefully rebels with his heart…the land is healed.
And all this from the awkward but earnest young man who came to court.
How wonderful and strange!
It is no wonder Lady Cunneware laughed in delight!February 4, 2022 at 1:55 pm #74547
Oh @sunbug, you just made my day…week…month. What an incredibly lovely thing to write. I am verklempt. Thank you.
You completely got what I was thinking towards – and I love your insight about Cunneware and ‘kenning.’ Beautiful.
I hadn’t read Parzival in a while before I began to work on this essay, and I was reminded as I was reading how much I truly love this story – because of this interior work that Parzival does, and the compassion in it. There is such hope in the work.
Thank you!!February 4, 2022 at 2:08 pm #74546
James – my turn for an apology – I’m just now seeing your last response.
So many wonderful flavors you’ve mentioned, and you’ve got me heading to my bookshelf to seek out Saga. Miller was my dissertation advisor, and I think his writings are exquisite.
What kind of music did you play? I spent a number of years playing the harp professionally, and singing – left that at the wayside mostly when I went to grad school. But my play now includes a mandolin I bought last year as a pandemic antidote – I’m having a blast with it. I’ve never played a fretted instrument before, so it’s a very different world. And there is something inherently playful to me about the mandolin itself – I’m enjoying its smallness (and portability!) after spending years lugging around folk and concert harps – and it’s breaking through some of the heaviness I could carry about the harp more metaphorically. I’m laughing a lot as I play, even when (mostly!) I play badly, learning to let go of the angst of perfection that worked me while playing the harp. And I’m amusing myself writing tunes for an as-yet imaginary group of crabby middle aged women punk bluegrass band that I’ve dubbed Oh, My Haunted Aunt… we’re going to perform such as-yet unfinished hits as “Whiskers on my Chin,” “Turkey in the Neck,” and “Hot Flash.” Even if I never get there, I’m thoroughly enjoying playing with the ideas…February 4, 2022 at 6:26 pm #74545
Leigh, your thoughtfulness is deeply appreciated for I have spent the last few days processing our conversation and its relevance to my journey over the last few years. The book by Stephen Miller is on the way; (although I have not read the Saga book, I mentioned I may get to that eventually); and I was never able to track down the essay. David Kudler or Stephen may know where it can be found. I seem to remember Miller remarking at a gathering of some sort when looking at a group of empty chairs surrounding a round table ressembling Arther’s court: “Yes, they are all there”; as if to say the knight’s mythical presence as a reference could be felt even though one could not actually see them. “The Fire is in the Mind” is the piece he wrote about Joseph Campbell as I remember; but I may be mistaken about that. Your recommendation is “spot on” however, and I’m sure the book will be very helpful when it arrives in the next few days. This morning I went perusing through the Foundation’s “Quote” section: (yes, all 500 of them, lol); and I was amazed at the number of references to “play” that kept popping up.
Speaking of which your musical interests and experiences sound fascinating; you were very kind to ask about my musical background as well. I was a professional sideman; (Congas and a little Afro-Latin and Brazilian percussion); for 45 years in Nashville, (although not the kind of instrumentation one normally associates with what is usually produced by the Country recording industry. My career was about as varied as I ever could have imagined, some touring and recording with a few well-known acts over the years; but the larger amount with up-and-coming groups and artists that were well out of the Country mainstream, such as Jazz, Rock, Rhythm and Blues, Latin, and even Brazilian; (although hard to imagine there). I played every kind of gig you could think of such as: weddings, clubs, restaurants, juke joints, concerts, taught a little bit, and worked plenty of day jobs to support my passion which kept body and soul alive. (I have a short magazine bio located in the personal projects section of the forums, or I would be more than happy to send you the link in a personal message if you are interested in a more detailed description.) I always get a bit self-conscious about these sorts of things.
I never made a lot of money at it, but that’s not the purpose when you find something you love; (the privilege of a lifetime to me is finding something that tells you who you are and feeds your soul), but I think the whole “Star” thing really distorts what this is all about because when you get to the end of that phase of your life journey you come up against your own identity destiny quest and what you lived your life for. If your answers fall short of what’s pushing you out of your own interior, then a new inner quest may be in order. So, the individuation process; (this alchemical cooking inside), has me on the hunt. What was it Joseph said? Something about the first phase of life is seeking realization of outward achievement; (like a career or pursuit that serves that purpose); but then in later life all that stuff that’s buried deep in the unconscious starts making its presence felt and asking to be heard so the journey inward begins, and we look for some of the deeper meanings our lives may be asking for. Something Jung said: “He who looks outward sees; but he who looks inward awakens”; or something to that effect.
But back to: “Play”; I think this idea is much more important than many of us realize; and that many of us are so stressed and apprehensive about Covid and keeping our lives together while supporting ourselves; much less seeing all the political toxic disarray around us, that finding “play” can be a really big deal. (Not just as a concept or idea; but in the way we interpret the world we are living in every day.) For instance, when a child is engaged in play, they are creating the world (anew) again every time they do something. There is that sense of wonder and discovery that we as adults have forgotten and must rediscover. And I think the archetypes that get stimulated in the unconscious not only let us know something is wrong or missing; but can help point the way through play to the direction we need to go. And this I think is the truly wonderful thing about any art that meets that inner need that not only fulfills you; but can also inform you what all these things going on inside you are attempting to communicate.
So, the search into the forest begins again. (Where and what is that core complex?) that’s making you do all these funny things Joseph mentions. Do you know what it is that’s driving you? What do you do to address that? (And notice I said address and not fix.) Because that may be that the thing worth keeping. This alchemy stuff is curious business; and the shadow may reveal parts of you that are a huge surprise in more ways than one.
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.”
So, I hope you see the connection I was attempting to establish between what we normally think of as “play” to this larger social and mythical application; and perhaps would share some of your thoughts about this. Again, thank you for your very kind and generous reply. (Before I go; thank you so much for sharing all your new musical pursuits and I really loved your song titles. From reading the way you write I’ll bet your harp playing is exquisite. Good luck with learning the mandolin; if you ever come to Nashville, I’d be honored to show you around.)
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