“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where you would not have thought there would be doors and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else…” – Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell was an early 20th century American scholar of world mythology. He dissected and analyzed ancient stories from every inhabited part of the globe. These stories varied greatly from culture to culture yet there was a similarity in all of them. It was these similarities that intrigued Campbell as they seemed to have a message concerning humanity as a whole as well as every individual. From the stories he studied, Campbell developed a “monomyth” that he called “The Hero’s Journey”.
The documentary Finding Joe, written and directed by Patrick Solomon, explores what The Hero’s Journey is and how it relates to every individual. When viewing this documentary one should be warned that she or he may just decide to quit her or his job and become a “starving artist”. The documentary encourages people to look at the cultivation of the soul as not just a luxury for those with extra time and money, but a necessity for anyone wishing to live the most fulfilling and meaningful life possible.
The title Finding Joe is a bit deceiving as this is not a documentary on Joseph Campbell as much as it is an invitation to discover one’s own self and one’s own passion. When Campbell says “Follow your bliss” he means to acquiesce to the true longing of one’s own soul, to take heed to the muse within. When a person answers the call from the soul, that person radiates and finds success and prosperity. The reason that most people do not follow their bliss is that it appears to be a path of folly. Campbell’s idea that following bliss, cultivating one’s own unique art, will lead to prosperity and success is not self-evident. In the myths around the world, the hero must always take a risk. It is courage that defines the hero. According to Campbell, everyone has the potential to be a hero. The hero lays dormant deep within the soul. All it takes is a little inspiration, a little courage, and a rather large leap of faith for the hero to manifest. I have a “Follow your bliss” bumper sticker on my vehicle. I have adopted Joseph Campbell’s words as my career counseling motto as well as a motto for life.
Pioneer Newspaper Article: Monday, May 20th, 2013
The Power of Myth
This week a group of Ferris State University students and faculty, along with community members, are visiting the romantic and beautiful city of Venice, Italy. Their visit to Venice is part of their study abroad travels to learn about language, culture and literature in Italy. As they enjoy their experience, they may not realize the impact a Venetian traveler had on their lives 800 years ago.
Venice is where Marco Polo, the legendary Italian merchant traveler, started his journey travelling on the ancient Silk Road to visit the royal court of the great Kublai Khan in China. The legends of Marco Polo’s travel, beyond the channels of Venice, inspired countless young Italian men in the 1400s and 1500s to take perilous adventures seeking the treasures of the east. Most of their stories are lost and will never be heard. But, one adventurer is known to every one of us in Big Rapids and beyond as he changed the course of the history in our world. Christopher Columbus, who was inspired by Marco Polo’s travels, set out to find a shorter route to the Indies but instead discovered the new world we live in today. The myths of Marco Polo’s travels lighted a fire that changed the course of history.
Our lives, dreams and aspirations, like Christopher Columbus’, are shaped by myths. The power of myth has not only shaped the world we inherited but also the future we leave for our children. Myths, as defined by scholars, are narratives that interpret collective experiences by groups to understand the world. Myths transcend time and space. To understand the power of myth, one needs to travel to experience the impact it has and had in our human history. Travel allows one to see expressions of myths in the form of ancient ruins, legendary battlegrounds, fabulous palaces, monuments and museums around the world. More than 100 Ferris students, who are travelling around the world this summer as part of their education, are experiencing this. These students, with the help of their faculty, are connecting the past to the present and hopefully will leverage this knowledge to shape their future.
Understanding how myth and mythologies shape our own lives and our neighbors’ lives is essential to success in a globalized world. In a globalized world, myths influence and impact our daily lives in powerful ways even if we are far removed from it by space and time. For example, late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was born in Tikrit, Iraq, where thousands of years ago, in the same city, the legendary Saladin was born. As we know, Saladin the Great recaptured Jerusalem by defeating the Crusaders. It is said that Hussein was inspired by the myths of Saladin. This narrative influenced the course of our world in the last two decades. Understanding the power of myths and mythologies such as this helps one to navigate the complex world we live in.
In this context, to promote global awareness and experiential learning through travel abroad, Ferris State University has chosen its annual international theme as “BEYOND: Mythologies” As one may recall, the last year’s annual international theme was “BEYOND: Silk Road”. So, it is very apt that our students who are visiting Venice this week will be coming back from the end of the ancient Silk Road to apply their newfound knowledge to the campus-wide theme of “Myths and Mythologies.”
The Center for Global Studies and Engagement at Ferris is promoting this annual international theme “BEYOND: Mythologies” through a yearlong series of activities and engagements. This summer a group of faculty, students and staff are working together in planning for this annual theme. We are hoping to bring speakers, cultural activities, campus engagements and dialogues that will showcase the impact of mythologies in various fields and cultures throughout history. We are planning a large exhibit on Mythologies on Oct. 20 on campus. We are also hoping to integrate this theme in various courses offered at Ferris throughout the coming academic year. We invite our community and local schools to encourage our students, friends and families to explore this annual theme. Please contact me if you are interested in being part of the planning team.
Dr. Piram Prakasam is the director of the Office of International Education at Ferris State University. He lives in Big Rapids with his wife and young son.