The hero, whether god or goddess, man or woman, the figure in a myth or the dreamer of a dream discovers and assimilates his opposite (his own unsuspected self) either by swallowing it or by being swallowed.
Today there was an email from the Joseph Campbell Foundation about Jean Erdman, the wife of Joseph Campbell. On February 20th she will turn 100 years old. She was a dancer and studied with Martha Graham and was well know in many theatre venues including the stages in New York City. She received many awards and accolades for her work both as a dancer and as a choreographer.
What each must seek in his life never was on land or sea. It is something out of his own unique potentiality for experience, something that never has been and never could have been experienced by anyone else.
When I read the email I realized that in all the time I’ve been studying and reading and listening to Joseph Campbell I never once considered even thinking about his wife! What kind of a feminist does that make me? (rhetorical question)
We are standing on a whale fishing for minnows.
His work is very meaningful in my life and, yet, I had not thought to think of her. We all know that without her his life’s work would have been much harder and perhaps not as powerful as it became. Behind each of us, man or woman, are those people in our lives who help fill us up so we can do the work we were put here to do.
The adventure that the hero is ready for is the one he gets.
As I thought of this, I realized that every person who has been a part of my life has added to the whole of who I have become for good or ill. The people who loved me and blessed my existence on the planet are not more important, although more treasured by me, than those who were intentionally cruel or off-handedly mean-spirited. In truth, the most profound lesson are those I had to fight and overcome great odds to win the day.
Love your enemies, for they determine who you are.
Every person I have known, now know or will ever know adds to my reserve of energy and wisdom–even when I feel drained by them! I welcome each of them filling up my tank, making me more than I would have been without them.
In the absence of an effective general mythology, each of us has his private, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dreams.
What do you think? Am I on to something here?
Click Here to see some of Jean Erdman’s choreography.