Monday, October 18, 2010

Follow Your Blister

Joseph Campbell is well known for his work interpreting the mythic constructs that shape our world: from Jesus to Luke Skywalker, the Upanishads to neo-Pagan rituals, he stripped away the exterior metaphor to find the underlying human experience that drives us. Many people are familiar with the saying "Follow Your Bliss," often seeing it on bumper stickers, sometimes t-shirts, and inspirational greetings cards. This saying is derived from a lecture Campbell would give:

"There's a saying in Sanskrit: the three aspects of thought that point furthest toward the border of the abyss or the transcendent are sat, chit, and ananda: being, consciousness, and bliss. You can call transcendence a hole or the whole, either one, because it is beyond words. All that we can talk about is what is on this side of transcendence. And the problem is to open the words, to open the images so that they point past themselves. They will tend to shut off the experience through their own opacity. But these three concepts are those that will bring you closest to that void: sat-chit-ananada. Being, consciousness, and bliss.
Now, as I've gotten older I've been thinking about these things. And I don't know what being is. And I don't know what consciousness is. But I do know what bliss is: that deep sense of being present, of doing what you absolutely must do to be yourself. If you can hang on to that, you are on the edge of the transcendent already."

To follow up, he then would discuss how this line of thinking could lead to deep sense of purpose and self:

"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."

In other words, if you open yourself to who and what you truly desire to become, the Universe responds in kind, opening doorways where previously there were none. The forces of the Universe *want* to see you become a deeper, more real human, and you get there by being true to your better self and by doing that which provides you with real and true satisfaction.

Of course, "Follow Your Bliss" as seen on the bumper of the car in front of you can take on a whole different meaning. We have subverted Campbell's original statement to mean that we should do what we want, when we want, with no regard to the other humans around us. It's used now to justify hedonism in all its 21st century splendor. It's what we do, everyday, as we search out meaning in our lives. Feeling empty? Have a triple shot mocha espresso. It'll make you feel good inside, at least for a while. Go to work and pick up that fat paycheck that you earned- by doing what? What indeed did you do to earn that? Buy some new clothes made in a sweatshop in China; that will soothe your empty soul.

It is said that later on in life, Campbell grumbled that he *should* have said "Follow Your Blister."

I see too much of myself in the group that would follow my bliss to hedonistic intoxication. I eat, seeking a balm for my empty inner self. I buy random crap, thinking it will be all I need to make me happy. I look at my paycheck and reflect that while I make good money, it would be nice if they'd pay me more since the work I do is hard and I do my best to do it well (ignoring the fact that I have long since begun to dimly believe that my job, while ostensibly helpful, is only another cog in a dysfunctional machine that ultimately causes more suffering than it ever alleviates). These are harsh things to recognize about oneself, and I'd like to look the other way. But I'm tired of following my bliss if all it will ever lead me to is Starbucks and the mall and the bank. I want to -truly- follow my Bliss. And to do that, I need to put in the work.

I've been thinking a lot lately. About what's important to me. About what I believe. About who I am, and what I want, and who I want to become. And here's what I've come up with:

I want to wake up in the morning and kiss my wife. I want to go outside and put in real work- milking the goats, feeding the chickens, mending the fences, tending the bees, weeding the carrots, threshing the wheat and hoeing the beans. I want to harvest the bounty that they have provided because I've taken such good care of them. I then want to turn around and give that bounty to the people I love: make a good, wholesome dinner for my wife and kids, bring homemade bread to my friends and neighbors, and help serve lunch to migrant farm workers alongside my U.U. church fellows. I want to lay down at night, knowing I've truly done something good that day, and set my alarm to get up and do it again the next day. I want to earn my blisters- and in so doing, I want to follow my bliss.

It's my intention to move slowly and deliberately toward this end. It's not something that can be accomplished overnight. This blog will serve as a journal as I take my baby steps to becoming more and more, the man I want to be by following my blister.

1 comment:

  1. Drew-nice intro- I wish I could write like that! I look forward to seeing your blisters develop and turn into work hardened callous.