Thursday, September 11, 2008

Joseph Campbell - Hero With A Thousand Faces: The Monomyth

Joseph Campbell has always seemed to be the person who understood the foundation of everything I want to learn about. What is it that lies beneath the surface of the myths that humanity has created for itself.

As a writer I've always been obsessed with the idea of a three act structure and here Campbell shows us the monomyth, the hero's journey from the world he knows, to separation to initiation to his final return. We must see the hero in his natural environment, establishing his character as a member of his community, before we can follow him on his journey. The journey then is a confrontation with some sort of metaphysical force, even if the battles be moral and peaceful, or a physical battle. The hero must go forth and combat (in his own manner) the personification of whatever it is that ails his people, his kingdom, or the world.

Within a three act structure we see the merging of two, the personal/human and the universal/god. I think Campbell illustrates this nicely with the tragedy and the comedy. The tragedy shows us the realistic, the earthly plane, full of woes and ending upon death. The comedy unites us with the sublime, the hope of transcending the tragedy of mankind. We obviously need both sides of the coin that is life; the dread of our inevitable deaths and the hope that there is more beyond.

As an aside this makes me think of the law of 5, or the conspiracy theories about the number 23, where the numbers 2 and 3 have some sort of deeper connection to humanity. 5 could be the merging of the three act structure, the journey, and the two opposing forces that comprise the yin-yang of life. Everything is defined by it opposite number, happiness/sadness, heaven/hell, god/man, and so on.

The World Navel is an interesting concept as well. The fact that it houses all of what is necessary in life, the good as well as the bad, is what I find to be most important. A combination of the sum total of experience, whether we can accept what that means, is what makes us a total living being. Acceptance of that seems to be what brings enlightenment.

As another aside, I saw the Buckminster Fuller exhibit at the Whitney yesterday and there was something that stood out to be. He incorporated universal concepts in his design work, and his geodisic dome, a sphere made up of triangle shapes, a shape he said was inherent in the cosmos on the most basic level, well this dome would resist pressure from the external, where as a perfect smooth sphere would resist pressure from internal. I'm not even sure 100% of what this means, but it stood out enough to me to begin developing some sort of theory about it. Perhaps being trapped with a sphere containing us, versus the idea of the dome protecting us from external forces.

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