The mythologist Joseph Campbell, in a series of conversations with Bill Moyers, draws attention to the significance of the last line of Sinclair Lewis’s novel “Babbit”: “I have never done the thing that I wanted in my life.”
Campbell comments: “That is a man who never followed his bliss. . . You may have been a success in life, but then just think of it–what kind of life was it? What good was it – you’ve never done the thing you ever wanted to do in all your life. I always tell my students, to go where your body and soul want to go. When you have the feeling, then stay with it, and don’t let anyone throw you off. . . No one can tell you what it is going to be. You have to learn to recognize your own depths.”
What are your own depths? How do you recognize them?
The recognition of your own depth invariably comes with adolescence: it is then that we discover that we are happiest–most blissful–when we are working with animals, or healing people, or tending plants, or being creative. All of a sudden a child discovers who she is, what he must do.
This discovery can take a hundred different manifestations, but whatever subsequently happens, whatever course life takes, however you become involved in relationships and children and career and the consumer ladder, it is important to hold on to that golden string. Be sensitive to whatever your gift is, and never let go.
According to this sensitivity, and to your faith in it, you will go on developing as a human being, pursuing those adventures, mental, spiritual and physical, whatever they may be, that your gift wants.
“Or,” adds the poet Ted Hughes, “to lose its guidance, lose the feel of its touch in the workings of his mind, and become absorbed by the impersonal lumber of matters in which his gift has no interest, can be a form of suicide. . .The loss of emotional and spiritual integrity can become the source of deep suffering.”
The happiest are those who have made a profession and a lifestyle of being in touch with their bliss; the most frustrated are those who have accepted one job or another because they didn’t know what else to do, and once employed have never had the time to figure how to get out. Human beings are unmeasurable; the imprisoned spirit only chafes against the bars of its cage.
“What I do is me: for that I came.” – Gerard Manley Hopkins
Adapted from Timeless Simplicity, by John Lane (Green Books, 2001). Copyright (c) 2001 by John Lane. Reprinted by permission of Green Books.
Adapted from Timeless Simplicity, by John Lane (Green Books, 2001).