Op/Ed By J. Strauss
One of my most favorite young human’s on the planet announced that she would be leaving her place of employment to follow her husband who got a job in Milwaukee. Her last day at the coffee shop, and most probably in my life, will be the twenty-third of April. She stood across the counter from me in the coffee shop and made her quiet announcement because I’d made mention of the fact that the manager of the shop was seen holding interviews the day before.
I got my coffee in a mug, as usual. I paid for the coffee and tipped five bucks, as usual. I put Splenda and half and half in mixing my brew to just the right formula. But inside I wasn’t thinking anything about any of that stuff. I was thinking some much more selfish, about how I would be losing another person in my life I held to be true and regarded me (in my own personal opinion) the same way.
The young lady is going on to bigger and better things with her newborn and her relatively new husband. She’s on one of those adventures I remember oh so well. All of that is likely to be quite wonderful, but what about me. The young lady had no idea that my Sunday morning coffee was quite innocently injected with a solid dollop of bitter bile, when she made her announcement, or even after. I made all the socially required comments about the positive nature of her leaving. I even added a little bit about how I’d miss her, but that part seemed to slide right on by without notice. Sitting here, a place where each and every reader reading this has sat over time, I reflect on how to deal with a seemingly minor loss like this and not have it effect me in my approach to the rest of the day, the week and so on.
How is it that a definitive loss, and this is a minor one compared to some that may descend upon any one of us at any time, can be accommodated and our own selfishness be reduced from seething about our interior to radiating outward as some form of positive energy.
Joseph Campbell, quite possibly the greatest anthropologist of all time and a world class philosopher for the ages, once said:
“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. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”
There is nothing momentary about what Campbell had to say and if you read and reread this quote you will come to be able to deal with the harsh realities of the social orders on this planet than you otherwise might. Bliss is not happiness simply because the root word of happiness is happen. When occurrences take place, they are judged to be either good or bad. If humans allow themselves to be ruled by the judgment of every circumstance then very likely those humans will spend at least fifty percent of living existence being quite miserable.
Also, according to Campbell, we live our lives using mythology to allow us to understand and accommodate almost every facet of our existence. There really is only one mythical story. All other stories, or mythical beliefs or presentations, are merely versions of the same story. Discomfort, injustice, or harsh circumstance is experienced; a hero sets forth on a quest to a distant place to seek redress or a solution, and then returns to deliver positive results to handle the situation. The entire affair can take place only in one’s mind or it can translate itself physically into traveling around the entire globe.
The most famous Campbell expression “Follow Your Bliss,” has little to do with sitting around or going anywhere. It’s a metaphorical statement and it presupposes that one has an understanding of what bliss is. Think about it, as this word can translate into different meanings for different people. Bliss, as Campbell intended, means joy or simply feeling good inside. To follow bliss is to think about what makes you joyful and feel good inside and then actively seek to find and choose those things that build, grow, support and endure it.
The young lady who is leaving has no clue that she was that important to me or that I will feel the loss like a brick being gently pried loose from my foundation, and that is as it should be. I, on the other hand, like you reading this that have been there before me, are living it with me or will have it happen to you in the future, must accommodate the loss silently by turning to pursue our bliss in other directions inside and out. The world is a vastly entertaining stage that we humans have been allowed to step onto during our lifespans and engage in the many and varied plays we link together to call life. Along our journey, from one play to another, we come to understand the variations on the one mythological story we’ve had embedded deep into our genetic structure for survival. We are a part of those variations as a member of the steering committee.
When I walk out the door of the shop today I will dearly miss this young lady who has no idea that she will be missed in any depth, and I will do so having reflected on my bliss and what this grand world is offering me in today’s variation of the play now on stage that I’m called back to. Smile into the sun, the rays of the moon, or even to yourself in total darkness, because there really is no total darkness for those of us who are in pursuit of our bliss.