Joseph Campbell’s more complete thought on “Following your bliss”
“What he believed was that people should find the path in life that fuels their spirit, that speaks to them on the deepest level. But Campbell also showed that this path is sometimes hard. “If your bliss is just fun and excitement, then you are on the wrong path,” he would say. “Sometimes pain is bliss.””
I agree with Campbell that at its highest bliss is something quite removed from joy or excitement or any normal emotion.
It seems that our usual suite of emotions are evolution’s way of averaging an incentive/disincentive structure into the hardware of our bodies and brains. It worked for our ancestors most of the time.
We have seen more change in the way human beings live and the environment in which they live in the last generation than in all previous generations. I clearly recall at primary school our teacher asking an old woman who was visiting the class what she thought the greatest technical invention was, and she replied “running water”. She no longer had to walk to the stream and back every day to fetch water – and that was her reality.
Now I sit here, in a comfortable recliner chair, with water and electric power delivered as much as I need, with a view of ocean and snow covered mountains, with this laptop on my lap that allows me to connect with multiple communities across the planet, via digital signals.
I have access to vast libraries of information, and abilities to calculate and manipulate data that could only be dreamed of when I started university 42 years ago.
So our environment has changed, but our emotional systems are way behind (thousands of years behind).
I survived my brush with cancer only because I was willing and able to go against all of the likes and dislikes that my body had, and choose a course of action, and stick to it until my body’s systems caught up and started to like the things I was eating and doing (6 months).
So I am clear that the normal definition of happiness that most would associate with bliss is not what Campbell is talking about.
For me, bliss often comes when I am using the highest abilities of this hyperfunctional brain of mine to produce outcomes that are of service to myself and all others on the longest timeframe I can conceive. And I know from database theory that I need to spend a lot of time doing random searches, random explorations of things my intuition indicates might be useful (doesn’t seem to make much sense to others, and it does to me).
If I do an objective assessment of my own behaviour patterns, I seem to have two major modes each of which has multiple submodes. One major mode seems to fit into the high function autism spectrum. What passes for bliss in the different modes can be quite different.
Developing levels of awareness that allow conscious control of the transitions between modes has been an interesting journey.
Transitions can be difficult – the absolute hard logic of the computer realm does not work with most people, and the the near enough (“you know what I mean”) world of human communication doesn’t work with computers. Interruptions from one realm while engrossed in the other often involves confusion and misunderstanding at many levels.