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Joseph Campbell's 100th Birthday
2004-03-26 12:07
by Score Bard

Joseph Campbell was born 100 years ago today, so it's an appropriate day to express my gratitude to him.

Campbell is for me what Bill James is to baseball statisticians: the guy who opened my eyes to a completely new way of thinking. Back in college, I was struggling to understand why I was so obsessed with baseball. Campbell's insights into relationship between myth, culture and human psychology provided me the answers I was looking for. Baseball is my personal mythology.

Now, I don't buy Campbell's story about myth hook, line, and sinker. As a guy whose personality type is that of an architect of systems, I can see that Campbell's explanations don't quite work as an architecture. DNA is the building block of life, and from that, springs forth a subconscious mind that spews a common form of myth? It doesn't quite fit. There's a missing step between DNA and myth. That's partly what my Keeping Score in the Arts series was about: how a simple brain architecture can produce the complex set of behaviors we see in human culture.

Nonetheless, Campbell's insights are invaluable to me. Campbell's mantra of "Follow your bliss" also helped me feel less guilty about my obsession. All my baseball activities: watching on TV, going to the ballpark, reading, blogging, writing silly poetry, playing fantasy games: that's my bliss. No apologies.

So where do I go from here? Will Carroll recently asked a similar question, wondering about blogging as a career. He said we need to ask ourselves, "What's in it for me?"

Short answer: youneverknow. If you follow your bliss, one thing will lead to another. But what that other thing will be is a mystery. As Campbell put it:

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.

So I'll follow my bliss, and go dancing through doorways, just to see what I will find. Happy Birthday, Joseph Campbell, and thanks for the advice.

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