May 31st, 2005
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reaching outward

Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves. -Nagajuna, second century Buddhist philosopher
An elementary particle is not an independently existing, unanalyzable entitiy. It is, in essence, a set of relationships that reach outward to other things. -H.P. Stapp, twentieth-century physicist

I love finding threads of wisdom that are seemingly not dependent on time or place. A contemporary physicist comes to the same conclusions as a 2nd century buddhist, both through a practice and a life experience that to all appearances would be unrelated. I became obsessed with Joseph Campbell many years ago for this exact reason. He began to notice similarities in theme to various myths from different cultures. A story told in a small village in Africa, was virtually identical to a russian folktale passed down orally for centuries. It is all connected, this human experience. The hero myth continues to be repeated in every country, in every culture all over the world. If you are unfamiliar with the hero myth, think Star Wars, (you may be surprised to hear that Joseph Campbell actually helped George Lucas write the book. Lucas had been a big fan of Campbell’s for many years and studied the hero myth intensely. This is why it holds up as one of the great stories in our culture.)
After watching a very bad movie last night, I concluded that one of the problems with our current media is that the hero myth is being watered down, all of the guts and extremities removed. In many cases we are spared from a character experiencing any long term, life changing pain. Instead the character is presented with a problem, finds a solution, and bang, goes onto the next thing which is usually love and happiness. But in the true hero myth, the point of the story is that the hero emerges (through the experiences of pain and adversity), completely changed, never to return to the person he/she once was. Part of the rituals of life (surrounding death, marriage, motherhood, etc.) existing to aid the hero through the change and help them to grieve and let go of the person they once were, (not a voluntary process by the way, the hero is always THROWN into an adventure by circumstances beyond their control). Easier said than done, in many cases. But these stories have existed for thousands of years, and they are to help us through our own lives by serving as a metaphor for the inward journey that we are all on.
Once you become tuned into the hero myth, you see it everywhere, in every book, movie, poem, painting.
(I really could go on about the pitfalls of our modern culture but will refrain right now. I have some packing to do. I’m off on an adventure of my own for a couple of weeks.) more soon.
for further reading on the subject I recommend the book Hero with a Thousand Faces.
(p.s. I had to close the comments to some recent posts so the comment spammers don’t wreak havoc.)

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