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Date Night with Joseph Campbell and Solitaire

After several months, I finally received the contract that I’ve been waiting for, and surprisingly, I feel close to nothing about it. I haven’t even finished reading through it, which is surprising because it’s what I’ve been looking forward to reading this whole time. And, it’s date night and I’ve spent much of the day searching for authors and publishing houses to connect with, which was to no avail, and for good reason as I was literally just passing the time (or wasting time, if you’re into semantics and that sort of thing). Oh, but it’s date night.

I’m spending time in the world of mythology this week and as I try to escape my allergen-riddled reality. Joseph Campbell left behind a wealth of knowledge on how we build fiction when he left the earth school, and his is one of my favorite collections to revisit when my curiosity has no specific name or question. I found this book at the Material for the Arts warehouse in Queens and directly after had one of the best burgers of my life, so that day is going down as a gift from the gods.

This third volume in a four-part series explores the “occidental” themes of art and religion, followed by its companion which explored the “oriental” themes. It’s quite a fascinating perspective because we rarely think of the world’s cultural constructs in terms of the larger generalization that Campbell spent his life trying to help us understand. So basically, the Orient, or eastern philosophies and mythologies, seek to establish principles that transcend experiences, whereas western philosophies and mythologies seek to establish relationships between God and man that are given meaning whether through personification, symbols, tangible evidence. And throughout the book he offers examples to further understand the occidental themes that have defined western history.

For the Greek, indeed for the European mind, the faculty of reason is to such a degree particular to man that to erase it is not to return to nature but to escape from it — from man’s nature. And if the excellence, arete, of any species must be recognized as rising from a life lived according to its nature, then for man it must be according to reason — neither to ecstatically communicated, so-called “divine revelations,” nor to animalistic or vegetal erasures of the human faculties. Moreover, the faculty of reason develops not in sheer solitude, but in society…

How I’ve made sense of the reading in contemporary context is that this makes me think of our beloved echo chambers. I think the echo chamber is the Western world’s security quilt onto which westerners of like-minded beliefs continue to stitch their patches. I also believe the Eastern world has its own echo chamber, but theirs is the one that allows for that transcendence of experiences mentioned earlier. It’s like the echo chamber of the west is a security blanket that we only share with those who share our thoughts and perspectives; the echo chamber of the east is a reverberating magnet in an open field that attracts those who have voyaged beyond their thoughts and perspectives and tapped into the principle of the magnet. But I don’t know, though.

 

Anyway, these are the first thoughts of May. How’s your month starting? I hope well and that wherever you are, your curiosity is being stoked and that there’s a good book in your hands!

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