Monday, May 25, 2009

The following quote is from a little book called A Joseph Campbell Companion.

“In all traditional systems, whether of the Orient or of the Occident, the authorized mythological forms are presented in rites to which the individual is expected to respond with an experience of commitment and belief. But suppose he fails to do so? Suppose the entire inheritance of mythological, theological, and philosophical forms fails to wake in him any authentic response of this kind? How then is he to behave? The normal way is to fake it, to feel oneself to be inadequate, to pretend to believe, to strive to believe, and to live, in the imitation of others, an inauthentic life. The authentic creative way, on the other hand, which I would term the way of art as opposed to religion, is, rather, to reverse this authoritative order.”
Joseph Campbell

There are several things that fascinate me about this quote (beside the fact that I relate to it very much). One is how can I be unmoved by something? Of all the vastness of our options religiously, mythologically, it seems almost impossible that some manifestation of theology or philosophy would capture me and create that “authentic response.” Am I so jaded? So skeptical? There are forms that I would love to be carried away by. I like the symbolism and ceremonialism of Catholic and Episcopalian religion, and I am drawn to the exotic religions of the far east with all the art and laired meaning in picture and story. Yet I am not taken away, not transported out of myself and into that promised rapture of amalgamation. Nothing, it seems, can carry me away from myself. I don’t think I am freakish in this. I think I have company, as indicated by the comments of Mr. Campbell. Is it the failure of the systems we have? Or a failure of a premise they all share? Or a failure of, perhaps, the stew I am cooked in, to cultivate the proper broth? I seem to occupy a purgatory between realism and mysticism. I long for and hold off at the same time. “Suppose the entire inheritance fails to wake in him…” This seems incredible. And what is this way of art? Do we make our own mythology and symbolism? Ok. But isn’t that redundant? Or is that creativity part and parcel to our journey? Perhaps I have to create it in my sphere of reality first before the already created traditions can make sense to me. Kind of along the lines of acceptance. I.e. I have to learn to accept myself before I can truly accept others. Some find and are taken by a tradition where the tradition leads. Some become lost in the halls picking up lint and sweeping away dust. And some of us, apparently, are just stubborn and hold-off-ish no matter how impressive the hall of tradition is. I have a notion that if I reached that place of amalgamation, all the traditions would then unfold and reveal their essence. So I keep on in this vane.

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