Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth

This week marks the 20th anniversary of PBS airing Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth. Bill Moyers conducted conversations with Campbell in the library of George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch. This is very apropos as Campbell's book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces was the main inspiration for Lucas's Star Wars. Ponder that one: it's huge!

I was living about five miles from the ranch in San Rafael, both when the interviews were being conducted, and when the series first aired. I happened to turn on PBS on June 21, 1988 and caught the first episode The Hero's Adventure. Within minutes I was hooked, and I was glued to the following episodes which aired consecutively for four or five nights. INSPIRATION is an understatement. Many other bay area residents were equally affected I think, as that week when I went to the Doubleday bookstore in downtown San Francisco the shelves in the mythology section—particularly Campbell's extensive works—were wiped out. This, as much as the program, was such a thrill to me.

I recently came across this rich compilation of Campbell's thoughts, mostly excerpted from a workshop he did at Esalen, Big Sur years ago. From this I nabbed the quote you can see in the sidebar. I would recommend it highly, and also the dvd (link above) of the original series available in July from WGBH Boston. And there is a wonderful one-hour documentary on Campbell's life, with interviews, called The Hero's Journey. I've had this for years and it is a treasure in my collection. Here's the link for the book of the same title.

Campbell's work has influenced greatly my own journey of the spirit and I'm sure, though I've never thought about it until now, inspired me in part to move to New Mexico in 1995, "because I had to", as I so often respond when asked why. If he had not honored his guidance which led him to a cabin in upstate New York during the depression, funded by money he had made through college playing in a jazz band, to read and study and contemplate; if he had instead accepted the offer from his alma mater Columbia to teach what THEY wanted him to teach, we may never have benefited from the fruits of his labors of love, inspiring so many to indeed, Follow Your Bliss.

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