Sunday, November 11, 2007

Life Out Of Death; Death Out Of Life

From The Power of Myth, pp. 65-66:

esoteric_dance_shiva_and_kali_dh64smCAMPBELL: Life is, in its very essence and character, a terrible mystery, this whole business of living by killing and eating. But it is a childish attitude to say "no" to life with all its pain, to say that this is something that should not have been.
MOYERS: Zorba says, "Trouble? Life is trouble".
CAMPBELL: Only, death is no trouble. People ask me, "Do you have optimism about the world?" And I say, “Yes, it’s great just the way it is.” And you are not going to fix it up. Nobody has ever made it any better. It is never going to be any better. This is it, so take it or leave it. You are not going to correct or improve it.
MOYERS: Doesn’t that lead to a rather passive attitude in the face of evil?
CAMPBELL: You yourself are participating in the evil, or you are not alive. Whatever you do is evil for somebody. This is one of the ironies of the whole creation.
MOYERS: What about this idea of good and evil in mythology, of life as a conflict
between the forces of darkness and the forces of light?
CAMPBELL: That is a Zoroastrian idea, which has come over into Judaism and Christianity. In other traditions, good and evil are relative to the position in which you are standing. What is good for one is evil for the other. And you play your part, not withdrawing from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but seeing that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder: a mysterium tremendum et fascinans [a mystery frightening and fascinating]. "All life is sorrowful" is the first Buddhist saying, and so it is. It wouldn’t be life if there were not temporality involved, which is sorrow, loss, loss, loss. You’ve got to say “yes” to life and see it as magnificent this way; for this is surely the way God intended it.
MOYERS: Do you really believe that?
CAMPBELL: It is joyful just as it is. I don’t believe there was anybody who intended it, but this is the way it is. James Joyce has a memorable line: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake”. And the way to awake from it is not to be afraid, and to recognize that all of this, as it is, is a manifestation of the horrendous power that is all creation. The ends of things are always painful. But pain is part of there being a world at all.
MOYERS: But if you accepted that as an ultimate conclusion, you wouldn’t try to form any laws or fight any battles or...
CAMPBELL: I didn’t say that.
MOYERS: Isn’t that the logical conclusion to draw from accepting everything as it is?
CAMPBELL: That is not the necessary conclusion to draw. You could say, “I will participate in this life, I will join the army, I will go to war,” and so forth.
MOYERS: “I will do the best I can.”
CAMPBELL: “I will participate in the game." It is a wonderful, wonderful opera, except that it hurts. Affirmation is difficult. We always affirm with conditions. But affirming the way it is, that’s the hard thing.

The elemental fact, present in our consciousness every moment of our existence, is: I am life that wills to live, in the midst of life that wills to live. ... The essence of the humane spirit is: Preserve life, promote life, help life to achieve its highest destiny. The essence of Evil is: Destroy life, harm life, hamper the development of life.
- Albert Schweitzer

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.
- Joseph Campbell

To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your life depends on it; and when the time comes, to let go.
- Mary Oliver

Higher beings from outer space may not want to tell us the secrets of life, because we're not ready. But maybe they'll change their tune after a little torture.
- Jack Handey

No comments: