Wednesday, June 8, 2011

“A Rare Day In June”

“A Rare Day In June”
by Kay McDuffee

"Have you ever considered an answer to the ongoing question, “What is so rare as a day in June?” Rhetorical or not, do you know who first asked it? It is snipped from an opus from the poet James Russell Lowell...
 “And what is so rare as a day in June?
 Then, if ever, come perfect days;
 Then Heaven tries the earth, if it be in tune,
 And over it softly, her warm ear lays;
 Whether we look, or whether we listen,
 We hear life murmur, or see it glisten...”
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And on it goes for pages. ‘The (lengthy) Vision of Sir Launfal’ is the tale of an Arthurian knight’s quest for the Holy Grail.  When I first read it, I began to reflect on that legendary quest and on how many artists, authors, screenwriters and poets had wound their work around it. I wondered if “the holy grail” were merely a symbol of the search for meaning in our own lives. The deeper I went, the more intrigued I became with the idea.
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I went into the work of Joseph Campbell, the great American writer, mythologist, and philosopher, because he too believed that the Grail legend was symbolic. Campbell, famous for his interpretation of mythology and ‘the hero’s journey’, gave us the seminal work, ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces.’ He was a strong believer in the unity of human consciousness and its poetic expression through mythology. His term ‘the monomyth’ refers to the concept that the whole human race could be seen as reciting “a single story of great spiritual importance.”
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Campbell believed that in modern times the purpose originally served by mythology is now provided by individual creators (artists and philosophers) and religions. It was his goal, in this book, to demonstrate the similarities between Western and Eastern religions. Each relates to humanity's search for the same basic, unknown force from which everything came, within which everything currently exists, and into which everything will return and is considered to be “unknowable” because it existed before words and knowledge.
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Campbell believed the religions of the world to be the various culturally influenced “masks” of the same fundamental, transcendent truths. In fact, he quotes from the Rg Veda in the preface to his book, “Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names.”  Artists, he felt were ‘magical helpers’ because they evoke symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, and can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.

After the release of “Star Wars” in 1977, George Lucas stated that its story was shaped in part by the ideas in ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces.’ Among other films and plays influenced by the monomyth are “The Lion King,” “The Batman” series, the “Matrix” series and the “Indiana Jones” series. Although scholars have noted how closely J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series has cleaved to the monomyth schema, she has neither confirmed that Campbell’s work was an inspiration nor denied that she ever read ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces.’

 Joseph Campbell states, “The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly.”
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One of Campbell’s most quoted admonitions is “Follow your bliss”. “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,” he wrote. “Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.” On this rare and perfect day in June, in tune with heaven and earth, I garden and I write – blissfully. You are the hero in your own life. On your journey, are you following your bliss?”
Hat tip to (redacted by request) lol.

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