The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The book is the written version of the DVD of the same name. There is material in the book that is not in the DVD, just as there is material on the DVD that is not in the book. As Moyers explains in the foreword, the two are meant to be companions of one another. The premise is that these encompass a series of discussions between Moyers and Campbell on how myths and mythology are conveyors of Life and its meaning within the lives of people, eve in today’s society. Campbell points out that today’s myths and mythology are brought along through the movie industry, where actors and actresses portray the myths on the screens people watch them on.
Throughout the book, Campbell comes back repeatedly to one theme: “follow your bliss” – which had a resonance for me throughout. When one follows their bliss, their dreams, their hopes and desires – one tends to achieve a center of happiness in what they do. They may not find monetary gain to achieve success in today’s modern, consumer-centric world, but they find a center of happiness and contentment in what they are achieving through their bliss. In my own personal estimation, if people would follow their bliss – rather than being sucked into the perception that “happiness” is achieved through consumer consumption patterns – the world would be an environment of far less strife, sarcasm, and scorn.
At the very end of the book, Campbell makes the following point: “That’s what people are doing all over the place – dying for metaphors. But when you really realize the sound, “AUM,” the sound of the mystery of the word everywhere, then you don’t have to go out and die for anything because its right there all around. Just sit still and see it and experience it and know it. That’s a peak experience.” (p. 286). I believe that this point sharpens the focus of following one’s bliss, that the bliss is not only attainable, but one merely needs to turn off the distractions of our modern world for a short time, and open up to the natural world around ourselves to truly find it. And that moment of bliss, the moment of being attuned with the AUM, is well worth the experience – no matter how long it is held.
Lastly, I do believe that this book and its companion DVD should be required material for students in High School. Campbell continually points to literary works as footsteps towards the concepts he brings up in these conversations. Not only is he a signpost to these mythological and spiritual concepts, but he serves as a gateway towards literary classics that are worth the exploration of students in the high school environment.