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Riddle Me This,” with mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D.”

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    Author, strategist, and cultural mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. serves as JCF’s Creative Director, as well as co-host of Skeleton Keys, a dynamic, playful, thought-provoking podcast that explores the intersection of myth and popular culture. Dr. Bucher is joining us this week in Conversations of a Higher Order for a discussion of “Riddle Me This” (click on title to read), his latest contribution to JCF’s MythBlast essay series.

    I’ll get the discussion started, but this is not an interview. Please join in and engage Dr. Bucher directly with your thoughts, questions, observations, and insights about his essay – that’s what will make this a “conversation of a higher order.” Where it will lead, who can say – but do feel free to talk to John (and each other)

    John,

    I’ll open with a riddle:

    What type of building has the most stories?

    There is something about the word “riddle” that, for me at least, evokes delight in a way that, say, “question” does not. Just reading the title of your essay, I couldn’t help but smile.

    Why is that, I wonder? It’s not like we have any experience with riddles in daily life. The toll taker asks a fee, not a riddle, to cross the Golden Gate bridge; the bank may ask my mother’s maiden name when I want to conduct a transaction over the phone, and the reCAPTCHA on this page challenges me to prove I am human when I post – very different from solving a riddle.

    Indeed, seems we only encounter riddles in myths, fairy tales and stories . . . and one other place – or rather, time:

    What type of building has the most stories?

    Answer: A library.

    Which is faster, hot or cold?

    Answer: Hot’s faster. You can catch a cold.

    What’s full of holes but still holds water?

    Answer: A sponge.

    That’s why I smile and feel such delight! Riddles take me back to golden days of yore – what is childhood without riddles and wordplay? Some of the first books I read on my own, beyond “See Spot run,” were books of riddles (interesting that the etymology of riddle is related to the word read). They were easy to understand, surprised me, made me laugh, were easy to remember and repeat – and they tickled my brain.

    Children love riddles.

    Myths, fairy tales . . . and childhood.

    I have thoughts on the “life-riddle” (as Campbell calls it) that is Finnegans Wake. We’ll get to that, I’m sure – but first, I’m curious about our earliest encounter with the riddle, it’s role in childhood, and what relationship that may or may not have to the mythic imagination?

    What does that stir in your imagination, John?

    #74638
    John Bucher
    Keymaster

    Ahhhh Steven, such rich questions.

    First, allow me to address the subtext of your comments about the unique magic that riddles hold. You rightfully say, “It’s not like we have any experience with riddles in daily life.” I think this is EXACTLY why riddles delight us in such profound ways. The idea of a toll taker requiring us to solve a riddle in order to pass over a bridge would border on absurdity, taking us out of our common daily realm to somewhere else — or at least to a liminal space between reality and absurdity. Perhaps the map that riddles provide to this liminal space is what makes them kin to the family of myths, fairy tales, and folklore.

    I think it’s also of interest that you said “riddles take me back.” I share that same experience. Not only am I taken back to a younger physical “self,” I am also taken back to a time when wordplay was important to me. I, too, loved books of riddles, as a child. Through the aging process, I have been drawn into other matters of concern, and often forget about the simple yet profound joys that clever words can bring. It’s not even a matter of simple enjoyment, there seems to be something deeply meaningful happening in my unconscious when I contend with a riddle. Perhaps it is working at a level I am not fully meant to provide articulation to. I often feel a sense of mystery under the surface of a riddle that feels connected to the mysteries I encounter in myth and fairy tales.

    You ask about what riddles might have to do with the mythic imagination and I am thoroughly drawn into thinking about games, and their importance. Riddles could be considered a sort of game and psychologists are fairly unified in their opinion that games are important to our human development. I would be so bold as to suggest that the imaginal games we engage in as children are an expression of the mythic imagination. I would pretend to be Luke Skywalker when I was a young boy. I set out on adventures and battles with the dark side. I now look back and recognize that I was exploring the mythic in my imaginal games through the means most appropriate to my maturity at the time. (Full disclosure — you MIGHT sometimes still catch me dressed up in Star Wars attire at certain comic conventions.)

    I’ve been thinking a great deal about game theory and re-reading Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse, which I consider a masterpiece, through a mythic lens.  I wonder if anyone else might have thoughts about the intersection between riddles, games, and myth? I believe this intersection is a pathway into Campbell’s exploration of  Finnegan’s Wake.

    #74637
    jamesn.
    Participant

    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”.

    You asked:
    “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

    #74636
    John Bucher
    Keymaster

    Thank you so much, James. What a rich and thoughtful response. The stories you’ve mentioned and ideas you posit all deeply resonate. To submit my own synchronicity, I actually watched It’s a Wonderful Life just last night, so it feels a bit like you were reading my diary! Ha!

    One thing that struck me as I was reading your ideas was the connection back to games in the characters of Ebenezer Scrooge, George Bailey, and the mythical Don Quixote. Each of the characters is, of course, fictional. We could say that they perhaps embody an archetypal energy that has appeared in characters (and human beings) long before their creation. We could also say that the ritual we engage when we create characters and tell stories based on this archetypal energy is a bit of a game. When we play games, as many are prone to do around the Holiday season, we embody the archetypal energy of players. Depending on the complexity of the game, we may take on a wide variety of attributes and backstories, as is the case with role playing games (RPGs). When we watch or read characters like Ebenezer, George, and Don, we are observing a game play out where they are the players. We can hear myths and observe the game and we can embody and live out myths, which allow us to play the game. At least this is how I am thinking about it right now.

    Circling back to Joyce and Campbell, Campbell clearly observed the mythic game Joyce was constructing through the use of riddles. What other game “pieces” do we see Campbell observing in Finnegan’s Wake? Ideas?

    #74635

    John,

    Your reference to Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games lures me back to this conversation. Carse’s book was a gift from my first serious, longterm girlfriend (someone I’d known since junior high, but didn’t really connect with until college), decades ago; hence, it’s always been a favorite, thanks to that association (as well as being one of the first works to pitch my mind outside the cartesian comfort zone). [Correction: in retrospect, Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, and Bach is the first book she gave me – she gifted me Carse’s volume a few years later, on a related theme.]

    This Campbell quote seems relevant:

    A mythological order is a system of images that gives consciousness a sense of meaning in existence, which, my dear friend, has no meaning––it simply is. But the mind goes asking for meanings; it can’t play unless it knows (or makes up) the rules.

    Mythologies present games to play: how to make believe you’re doing thus and so. Ultimately, through the game, you experience that positive thing which is the experience of being-in-being, of living meaningfully. That’s the first function of a mythology, to evoke in the individual a sense of grateful affirmative awe before the monstrous mystery that is existence.” (Pathways to Bliss, 6)

    We all know the rules when it comes to riddles – they must have an answer that makes sense once shared – such as this example from Finnegans Wake:

    . . . where was a hovel not a havel (the first rattle of his juniverse) with a tingtumtingling and a next, next, and next (gin a paddy? got a petty? gussies, gif it ope?), while itch ish shome” (231)

    which Campbell and Robinson in A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake boil down to “Where was a hovel not a hovel? . . . When it is home.” (149)

    That’s an answer which pretty much rings true for everyone – but that doesn’t always seem the case with myth and fairy tale.

    Two examples come to mind:

    Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”

    and

    “One slew none, and yet slew twelve.”

    The first is from the biblical myth of Samson, a wager posed to his Philistine bride’s wedding guests (Judges 14:14). The riddle is a reference to a lion the Israelite hero slew with his bare hands; on returning to the carcass sometime later, he discovered bees had built a hive in the carcass – an episode memorialized in a Grateful Dead song (“He ripped that beast, killed it dead / And the bees made honey in the lion’s head”).

    The second riddle is from the aptly named “The Riddle” – the 22nd offering in The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (published by Pantheon in 1944, which includes a “folkloristic commentary” by one Joseph Campbell).

    In both instances, the riddle is drawn from an episode in the respective hero’s life that he alone knows, which seems more than a little unfair to those who are posed the question. Nevertheless, each of these riddles is successfully solved – a result of the hero  of each tale confiding in a woman who shares his bed.

    Despite the sweet and simple “where is a hovel not a hovel,” the riddle that is Finnegans Wake seems of this latter variety, with the answer contained within the one posing the question (i.e., HCE – Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, aka Here Comes Everybody / Haveth Childers Everywhere).

    Your reference to game and game theory really strikes a chord for me. Myth, ritual, dream, and art all emerge from the play-sphere of imagination. There are many answers – and no answer – to the central riddle of Finegans Wake; nevertheless, I do find an answer in literature (Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to be specific), however out of context it may be, that works for me:

    The play’s the thing.”

    #74634
    jamesn.
    Participant

    John, your response was most kind and deeply appreciated. And since we are at the deepest interaction level of human communication at a subliminal level when we play games, your post immediately struck me like a thunderbolt that “winning” is to me is of special importance. So let me introduce the idea of what winning means at an archetypal level, and all the different variations winning can have on the psyche; (especially when considering what “losing” can also mean), to whomever it effects; as either an “affect” of an archetypal image result; (we lost, or we won) and how the entire psyche interprets the results. Whole lives can be impacted by either. “But the goal of most games is usually to win.” So, we have a powerful archetypal force in “Play” that usually takes place between human beings.

    Now if we take the idea of play and take it into a much deeper level where emotions rule; then again, we have endless possibilities because as Jung stated: (I can’t remember exactly where); “the mind is a curious thing”, and at the subconscious level it’s often difficult to tell exactly what kind of mischief gets stimulated by playing a game; depending on whether it’s with people or oneself. A child plays one way with the imagination; and adults often play other ways while assigning meaning to an outcome; (whether personal or abstract, emotional or detached), and now you’ve got psychic elements involved like the ego, shadow, anima/animus, and persona mask; and a whole system begins to move about while the game is in process; and then the end result produces an outcome that this system has to interpret.

    Does this outcome produce something the individual is happy with, or does losing produce disappointment, both leaving a memory that can wind up in the landfill of the psyche; (that like Joseph mentioned can be conjured up by the Shadow from an emotional trigger in the form of something symbolic that the unconscious has buried, and the psyche has to process it before it delivers an emotional response. Sports are great for this kind of projection, but also serious emotional scars from a relationship trauma of some kind as well. My friend betrayed me, my team lost the championship, you want to play catch?, I’m going out to play – want to come? Let’s play that boardgame we use to as kids called Monopoly; how about checkers instead? Then there is that most important of games that of romance; (the game of courtship: “the game of love”; the dating game, the game that grabs you and will not let you rest until you have won. Or lost. The battle of the sexes where the ego gets involved and the heart is not necessarily in play.

    And then there are the final results from the game of life; for after all life is a game, is it not? And we bring the meaning to whatever game we are playing. And like that wonderful line in: “The Dead Poet’s Society”; where high school English Teacher John Keating is talking about the meaning of Poetry and asks: “The powerful Play goes on; what will your verse be?” Or even a better revelation from Joseph Campbell.

    Thank you again for your kindness; your input about games is a joy.

    #74633
    Participant

    Hello,

    Great MythBlast , Thank you !

    I thoroughly enjoy Joyce , puerile and comedic as he is, especially the “naughty bits”.

    I like the Sphinx riddle. The three legs of old age the stages of life. Birth life death, infancy middle then old age. The legs we stand on in old age.

    The cane the walking stick the staff that symbolizes the unique journey of an individual life. It grows organically tempered by time place trauma success . Solidifies concretizes in old age informed by the choices we’ve made , lessons we’ve learned in life. The stick that aides us with our limp. It implies the trinity , the “Three quarks for Muster Mark! / Sure he hasn’t got much of a bark / And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.”  , and begs the next step back to the quaternary for completion. The four sides of the classical mandala . The four levels of interpretation of scripture , the four levels of Pardes , the four levels of consciousness,etc. etc.

    superpositioning of interpretations is grand ! Isn’t it ? The narrative of the quanta ! of mythic Light internal external eternal !

    The Sphinx riddle begs one to look beyond the simple answer, add to it with ones own insight.

     

    I like the four visible Sphinx legs showing in the header Art of the myth blast. A mirror image completed with a looking glass ? Implying six legs   alluding to the coach with six insides ?

    Lots of fun to follow streams of consciousness when talking Joyce , riddles & Open ended answers that leave room for subjective interpretations!  Riddles bring back the Mystery to life … of life … To seek the answer is to confront the Mysterium tremendum et fascinans .

     

    ps

    Stephen the building with the most stories ? Is of course our Fathers House within which are many mansions within which are many rooms within which are many stories  ! Each a unique story ! A strand of narrative string theory in a infinite woven tapestry Making up the One House !  May your mansion be full ! Yet alway remain open to more stories , more interpretations !!! As the strand of your life is comprised of all you’ve read of all you’ve written of all you’ve encountered of all you’ve been influenced by of all you’ve influenced so is the strand of Everyone woven into a mythic membrane … A shared dream perception of reality … While walking on Sandy Mount Strand… Oh those membranes those diaphanes !!!

    #74632
    John Bucher
    Keymaster

    Stephen, you have no idea how delighted I am to hear about your connection to Carse’s book. I rarely encounter people familiar with it anymore. I knew I liked you ; )

    As usual, the Campbell quotes burst with richness I only aspire to on these topics. I also resonate with your juxtaposition of myths, fairy tales, and riddles. Your nuanced comparison was insightful for me.

    I’m thinking a great deal about your Shakespeare quote, context be damned. The play IS the thing. Carse would, of course, suggest that this is only true of infinite games and that finite games are instead designed to end play.

    Campbell’s resistance against providing hard and fast formulaic explanations of Joyce, as opposed to forms of exploration, perhaps speak to his (conscious or unconscious?) recognition of Finnegan’s Wake as an “infinite game” meant to keep play going indefinitely.

    As for the hovel/home riddle that you’ve brought in, I am especially drawn to the necessitated empathy of the riddle. This was something Joyce seemed to excel at. While I don’t recall Campbell pointing to that specifically, I hear it in the subtext of how he admiringly speaks of the way Joyce uses riddles throughout the text.

    #74631
    John Bucher
    Keymaster

    Ahhh, thank you James. Your response resonates so deeply with me. Your comments about games are causing me to dig deeper into my own thinking about myth and games. If you have time, take a look at my response to Stephen’s last post, as I also consider games further. The games you mention here are especially interesting in terms of finite/infinite games.

    Your quote from The Dead Poet’s Society (a story I adore) causes me to consider the dual meaning of “play” in that quote, and perhaps in general. So much to compare and contrast in those meanings. Such a rich quote.

    #74630
    John Bucher
    Keymaster

    Yes, the Riddle of the Sphinx continues to present itself with fresh challenges each time I encounter it. You mentioned:

    “Riddles bring back the Mystery to life … of life”

    I like your use of capitalization here, equating Mystery with other grounds of being such as God that also get capitalized. I think it’s especially true that riddles bring back the Mystery, suggesting a resurrection, a return — certainly something Campbell posited in so many contexts. The ongoing bringing back of the Mystery is a rhythm of wonder that we can continue to engage in and observe with awe. Occasionally we have a part to play ourselves in the bringing back of the Mystery. And those, those are the moments.

    Thank you for the powerful words.

    #74629
    jamesn.
    Participant

    John, you are most kind in your remarks concerning my references about “The Play”; for yes, that was exactly what I was attempting to express that Stephen so eloquently quoted. (He always seems to know where these things are to pull them out of the ethers, and Robert’s quotes were a great example as well.)

    From the Greek Tragedies to Shakespeare to television Soap Operas; to the narratives in great music or great Fairy Tales or the great novels; as Joseph once remarked to Bill Moyers about the spiritual aspects of our lives: “Yes, these things do live in us indeed”; and another where he says: “Just as you can see on a New York street corner, these eternal figures like: “Beauty and the Beast”; waiting for the light to change they do live in our daily lives waiting to be summoned forth from deep within both our “personal and collective unconscious” as we look inside our psyche when they come to greet us and inform us about who we are.

    We are only here for a brief moment in time; and what we do with the time we have makes all the difference because as “Robin Williams” character in Dead Poets: “John Keating”, also reminded us when he talked about: “Carpe Diem”: “we are food for worms”; and this game or dance with eternity; “this joyful/sorrowful participation in the lives of others that we partake in “is” the privilege of existence we leave behind that we were here; and is our: “verse” that both Joseph and Keating to his students were talking about.

    As I mentioned a moment ago; these insights that Joseph refers to can save lives because so many people are in extreme emotional pain because they have lost their: “Ariadne’s Thread” or personal “Umbilical Cord” to their inner life; and many of us are lost in our own: “House of Mirrors or Labyrinth” and our inner world is in complete chaos or disarray; and we must find our way out; whether by doing battle with our inner Dragons or Minotaur’s, or listening to our Wounded Child. And these eternal mythic themes refer to these inner struggles we all have to deal with no matter what culture, no matter what psychological crisis they come from. As Joseph mentioned they are in us and when we find out what is ticking in us, we can get straightened out.

    (Of course, a little humor along the way helps us as well; especially in the dark forest where all these unrealized things await us.) One can say that is the mission of the Hero; or one can say this is the task of life itself; but I think no matter how one thinks about it; “The Call to Adventure” is there; like a track waiting to be discovered. As he mentioned once: “The Fates lead him who will; others they drag”. And a life well lived by listening to that summons addresses our: “Raison d’ e^tre”. (Sorry for the bad typo.)

    Anyway, this seems to be what all these things are saying to me. Sorry to gush on so; but these themes that Joseph refers to have helped me so much to find my way out of my own personal crisis within my inner cave; and continues to do so; and I am so very grateful for it.

    And again, thank you for your very kind and thoughtful encouragement.

    #74628
    John Bucher
    Keymaster

    Gush away! Again, your remarks here are rich food for my soul. Thank you for these.

    #74627
    jamesn.
    Participant

    You are extremely thoughtful to say that John; it means more than you know and I am deeply touched. Thank you so much for such kind words. Hopefully others will share some of their thoughts and impressions on this topic. All the very best to you.

    #74626
    Participant

    John,

    Thank you for your reply .

    Moments !

    We are walking through them a stride at a time …

    Tis a glorious Mystery !

    The mystery of the moments … are always upon us …

    When we choose to see … and view from shore of the sands of time …

    Listen for the lapping gravitational waves of space that cascade upon us …

    A Cosmic background noise … felt heard seen smelt tasted logically understood rationalized as a continuous eucharist , a feast of the six senses !

     

    Robert R Reister

    #74625

    I am enjoying the themes of riddles and wordplay, these past two weeks!
    What fun! I visited forward other words and now return to these words!

    Riddles are something, which I remember as a young child.

    When I was little, my Dad a high school math teacher and retired certified VW mechanic,  would present riddles to my Mother and me.

    These were the infamous riddles from The Hobbit, between Bilbo and Gollum.

    Both my parents had read the book. But the riddles somehow were always fresh.

    Dad was fascinated by them.
    And it was fun to guess.
    In fact, I have taken to heart that both my parents had the perfect balance, at least to me of the practical (as educators) but also the wonder (and the imaginal.)

    Dad promised if one of his high school math class did their work during the week and were well behaved on Friday, he would read the Hobbit to them. And so he did!
    And those grown students with children of their own never forgot that!

    I love your response quote, John about “bringing back the mystery.” At times it feels vital and necessary. It evokes that numinous place of wonder, that seems to be a hidden soul in so many myths!

    There was another quote from your essay, which resonated in my mind. But alas will have to copy and paste…lest I loose this train of thought!

    Sometimes, I think that sense of mystery is what balances out the intellect…along with intuition, gut instinct, inner nature and common sense or grounding.
    I’m not sure the mythic journeys completely do away with the intellect, but rather that the intellect is integrated into something more than itself alone? (Collected Unconscious? Universal Consciousness?)

    That overall awareness or that something, which is unafraid to point to mystery or say “I don’t know?”

    Or as you and others have  said “what one thought they knew, they did not know.” Sort of that humble  effect of the journey or perhaps the riddle too on the traveler.
    And of course I’m not surprised that Campbell would leave Finnegans wake open without a complete solving…!

    That leaves a “point beyond itself,” awareness…

    Even, if as you said the riddles of old had higher stakes…and even the riddles of Gollum’s cave…the stake of not being eaten!

    And it’s funny too, because Bilbo presents an ‘unfair’ question as well…something Gollum at first cannot possibly know until: Dot dot dot

    Bilbo manages to override the riddle game…sort of. The trickster element?

    But he’s at his wits end.

    And I had another tangent since you mention Star Wars (yes may the Force be with All!)

    But Capt Kirk and the simulated game, which never can be won…

    So yes Star Trek (switching gears.)
    But Kirk in the new Star Trek (with nods to Wrath of Khan etc) again overrides a game (speaking of games and riddles) but this game was never intended to be solved because it was a test of human psyche set up by Spock.

    But wow how Kirk becomes the trickster! (As well as infamous prime directive breaker.) So he overrides the game. Very curious to quote Spock. Though Spock was not pleased.

    It is all fascinating!

    Okay, so there is a trick with Bilbo’s egg riddle. Yes, that’s the answer an egg.

    “A box without hinges or lid inside a golden treasure is hid.”

    If approached with wonder and imagination, this is understood.

    If approached with intellect alone, the “fallacies” or “details” become more important than the rest: 1. An egg is not a box…it’s round an oval to be precise.
    2.not everyone likes eggs (but that’s subjective as far as “golden treasure.)

    3. The yolk is really yellow or orange.

    But alas! That becomes the realm of “concrete,” perception.

    So the mystery of the riddle and the play of the game is set aside for the details.

    A box in this case simply means “container,” or that “which is contained.” Besides, who is to say there are not round boxes or “egg boxes”?

    The Russian dolls? And Chinese eggs within eggs?

    So this is why it seems the intellect needs a little balance from the imagination before it becomes so sure of itself, it misses the experience and mystery entirely! Or even the resolution if there is one needed.

    The wonder to me and the challenge of the riddle leaves another door open to the possible.

    And maybe another re-connection with the transcendent.

    Thanks John for this wonderful muse upon riddles or this riddling muse upon wonder!

     

     

     

     

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