A Hero’s Companion



I finally finished reading, in toto, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion (google books; amazon). I found it in my Father’s Library when I visited for Christmas and have been hanging out with it casually since then—half a year to finish ain’t so bad (I have been reading other things).

It’s organized in small 3-5 page chapters, each of them edited from talks or books of Campbell’s aggregating the essence of his life, understanding of mythology from around the world, interpretations of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and the world’s story he can grok. And grok well he does. While it does encompass most of his mythological structural underpinnings, it reads more like spiritual literature, so its byline of Reflections on the Art of Living is apt. I found them profound, touching, and intimately teaching. Each segment is so dense, touching on the basics of life in the world, it was a better book to hang out with than read directly; its implications for life as an artist, writer, dancer or otherwise strike deep and keep resonating for me. I can tell it will be a book to keep nearby, something to keep the flow of creative juices bubbling forth. It blends both poetry, pull quotes that function as poetry, and citations of his own and others into a basic and aesthetically pleasing read. I’ve read snippets of his seminal The Power of Myth, of course, but that one reads more as non-fiction, albeit as a cohesive interview experience; this Companion works in a more complementary way to one’s own life.

Here are a few excerpts from the end pieces, which were parts of the beginning too:

Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.

The obvious lesson…is that the first step to the knowledge of the highest divine symbol of the wonder and mystery of life is in the recognition of the monstrous nature of life and its glory in that character: the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think—and their name is legion—that they know how the universe could have been better than it is, how it would have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without life, are unfit for illumination. Or those who think—as do many—”Let me first correct society, then get around to myself” are barred from even the outer gate of the mansion of God’s peace. All societies are evil, sorrowful, inequitable; and so they will always be. So if you really want to help this world, what you will have to teach is how to live in it. And that no one can do who has not himself learned how to live in it in the joyful sorrow and sorrowful joy of the knowledge of life as it is. (cit. Myths to Live By)

We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.


The world is a match for us. We are a match for the world.


The first function of mythology is to sanctify the place you are in.


Follow your bliss.


If you want the whole thing, the gods will give it to you. But you must be ready for it.


A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation:

“As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm.


It is not as wide as you think.”

Thanks Joseph. Your amazing technicolor language continues to instruct us.

Maya Back to the Waters

We should all learn how to pass through the world as gracefully and vibrantly as Maya Angelou. I only studied her briefly through Sula and a few poems. Hearing her old interview on Fresh Air, I am reminded to inquire again. I had a driveway moment basking in her blues singing and conferring with Terry Gross. She will be missed.

Familiar Places

Going on about a year and a half now, House of Leaves author extraordinaire Mark Z. Danielewski has been working on his new series of books known as The Familiar.

In that time he’s been posting odd pictures (in that they’re mostly black; though more recently star fields) on his facebook and twitter accounts about every fortnight. Each of the pictures has a numerical code associated with it, which, if cleverly parsed, could be useful information. They most likely fit location coordinates, though other options of star charts would seem fitting and possible.

It could be an elaborate viral marketing campaign. It could be an enigmatic puzzle adventure. Knowing MZD mostly from his books, I have little doubt there is some method in his madness, but further assumptions are hard to build upon.

So, of course, I’ve been keeping track.

Most of the data, maps, and notes I’ve taken is on my older blogger. Other discussions over at reddit/codes, another blog, and the home MZD forums also exist. The maps of Danielewski’s Boxes and Danielewski’s Stars are the most updated; the Familiar Places map combines them, though is not auto-updated.

One of the more interesting posts prompted: 15Sep13: “Two rules and one challenge…” #TheFamiliar

We’re starting to make some progress, but please let me know if you would like to collaborate further.

Trillium Project

So, last week I took a retreat at the Shotpouch Cabin dubbed the Trillium Project by Oregon State University’s interdisciplinary Spring Creek Project. It was pretty great.

I met some lovely and creative people there.

Rosemary Lombard and her Chelonian Connection blog about her adventures with Diode.

And Frank Hall, poet, musician and Environmental Spirituality guide.

World Book Night

So, I volunteered for World Book Night this year. I had tried to sign up in previous years and was ignored for whatever reason. This time I figured out that my local independent bookstore extraordinaire, Grass Roots, usually has a few boxes left over from their general shipment and got in their cue a bit easier. Giving away books should be fun.

However, the box of promo books I got to hand out ended up being a bit less than ideal match. I figured I’m a geeky dude, I can sell Fantasy. So I picked up a box of The Ranger’s Apprentice, which I hadn’t heard about until the WBN promo, nor had I read. Turns out it’s a young adult fantasy novel. No worries, right?

The Ranger's Apprentice Book 1
The Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1

I check with the kids at my Aikido dojo, my major connection to the youngsters, and they’re all like: “Sorry, don’t need book 1, I’m on book 8 already.” So, at least the kids like it, that’s good. Now, where do I find the kids that haven’t read it? I tried the local middle schools, but they are, correctly I feel, not interested in geeky dudes strolling around their campus handing out free books–so I just hand them off to the office to filter them down to the reading clubs.

I hit up the comic book shop and give out a few to some kids browsing Magic cards. And the store owner.

And some more go to random lovely folk at Fred Meyers who look like they needed a book.

No amazing stories with my personal attempt at spreading literary fervor and fantasy, but still, a job well enjoyed.

i09 on writing science fiction

i09 had some good posts recently about writing science fiction.

A sublink from that post had some great methods from Max Barry (writer of Lexicon) about how to actually complete the writing process. I recommend using all 15 to some degree, but, of course, the writing seems to be paramount (ass-to-chair as Matt Love has said to me).

When you’re pondering those ideas, make sure to avoid these:

Beginner’s Mind

I will try with more concerted effort to make this my authorspace blog. Having started or neglected half a dozen other blogs, I make no guarantees about those other blogs. This should at least work for my purposes for my writing life though, so come back here and I’ll cross link other blogs and spaces as necessary.

I’ve been liking WordPress more and more with its ease and customizability (compared to say other places like Blogger, which is still pretty decent); though am a little disappointed with font customization as yet. Still learning. Always.