It was writer Henry Davis Thoreau who said “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Thoreau was a poet and philosopher who died in 1862, but his words could easily apply to every man and woman in today’s chaotic society.
If you’re like me, then you sometimes feel anxious about the world, perhaps even a little depressed.
But when we read the insights of a very special person who passed away in 1987 by the name of Joseph Campbell, we begin to realize that all is not lost – that, in fact, we have far more power than we realize.
Joseph Campbell was a young man during the depression of the 1930s. There were few employment opportunities and little money to be had. He lived in a rented shack. For five years, he confined himself to those four walls and did little else but think about life and read books about history.
He became fascinated with mythology and the different cultures and philosophies of the world, eventually becoming a professor at various colleges (and marrying one of his students). While teaching, Campbell continued to ponder the human condition, writing books and publishing articles.
What Campbell had to say has extreme relevance today. His belief system is summed up in this simple phrase: Follow your bliss.
Today, many of us yearn for others to contact us, praise us – like us. We seek validation from the outside world.
But it is we – ourselves – who must think the best of ourselves. Self-respect is the catalyst for growth and awakening.
Not to be arrogant, but as a symbol of self-love, go on your social media sites today and give yourself a like.
Millions of us ignore our inner voice. We push aside our bliss, that place where our mind, body and soul desire to go. Instead, we choose the easy path – jobs and careers we secure only for the money. Then, wonder why we are not happy.
It is only when we follow our bliss and pursue what we love, enjoy and view as important that contentment and joy will come. To be sure, it is not always the easier path, but as Campbell said, “To work only for money is to turn yourself into a slave.”
Many of us see life as a struggle. Many others see it as boring – without rewards. But Campbell showed us that life is a reflection of ourselves. If you want life to be interesting, then be interesting yourself. If you want energy and revitalization – be energetic, be vitalized. If you want love, give love. If you want to be heard, then listen. If you want kindness, be kind.
These are the things that turn struggle into adventure.
There is so much discussion today about the meaning of life. So many of us are desperately looking for it and coming up empty.
Campbell believed that life has no meaning.
Until we give it meaning.
What we say and what we do feed not only our own lives but those around us. “Meaning” stems from what we focus upon, the respect we show others, the support we give, and our determination to fulfill goals bigger than ourselves.
In reading the wisdom of Joseph Campbell, I realize that I have so much more power than I ever imagined.
I have come to know, also, that my ambitions are too small.
Our own view of what we’re capable of is what Campbell called “the dragon”. It limits us and pushes us down. The only way to slay the dragon and become who we really are is to pursue our dreams.
I can give greater meaning to my life by boldly and shamelessly following where my heart wants to go – regardless of what others may think. It is, after all, my life, not theirs.
Campbell once said: “If you 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.”
And so, it’s not so much that we need to completely change our lives. Instead, our challenge is to live the life source buried inside of us – the one yearning to be seen and heard.
Follow your bliss. Starting now.
In 1988, a year after Joseph Campbell died of cancer, PBS aired a series of conversations that had been filmed between journalist Bill Moyers and Campbell. Based on Campbell’s best selling book “The Power of Myth”, the two explored how to live to the fullest. The series attracted some of the largest audiences in the history of PBS. (The series can be seen on YouTube).