Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Power of Myth Series

How's this for coincidence or synchronicity? A few months ago, I wanted to see The Adjustment Bureau with someone, so we could discuss it afterwards. Since all of my friends in Portland are married, I'm left to do things on my own. The movie was so amazing to me, that I wanted to share ideas with others after the film was over. I found myself wishing that there was a movie group, made up of people who are interested in the same kinds of movies as I am (the inspirational, thought-provoking kind).

Then, a few weeks later, as I ride the bus home from work, I notice a church sign that was advertising a series on Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth. How convenient! The church is located near the intersection where I have to get off one bus and wait for another bus. The series is held on Tuesday evenings over six weeks. Each week, the group will watch one chapter of the Bill Moyers interview with Joseph Campbell, then we break into groups for a discussion on what we have just viewed.

Did I manifest this? Ten years ago, in June 2001, I started attending a discussion group in Atlanta called "Circle of Friends." One of the regulars was a guy a few years older than me who quoted from Joseph Campbell quite often. I had heard about Joseph Campbell in the 1990s when I learned that George Lucas was inspired by Campbell's classic, The Hero With a Thousand Faces and based his Star Wars saga on "the Hero's Journey." Campbell is an example of someone who made a living out of his passion. There was no such job title as "Mythologist", but he wrote books about mythology, taught in a university, and became best known for the phrase: "Follow your bliss." Hearing this other guy quote Campbell constantly got me intrigued enough to read The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth.

When the first installment of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings opened during the holiday season 2001, I had no idea if I wanted to see it. I've never been into the fantasy genre. However, the film received critical acclaim and became a cultural phenomenon. I decided to go (on my 30th birthday, with my best friend who came up to Atlanta for the day) and view the movie through "the Hero's Journey" motif. It worked! I saw so many parallels between what Campbell wrote about and the events in the film.

In the years since, I bought a book about how to write a screenplay or novel using the Hero's Journey motif (which is very useful and highly recommended for any writers out there). A few years ago, I found a workbook / guidebook about using the Hero's Journey motif in analyzing and living your own life. I've only skimmed through it, but it looks useful. I've come to believe that all churches should teach the Hero's Journey to everyone. Instead of focusing on converting others to your truth, how about having courses so that church-goers can try out ideas for their own lives. The Hero's Journey is exactly the kind of meaning that helps me view the challenges in my own life.

So, to come across this series offered by a church that is along my daily commute from work to home is just too convenient. Of course I'm committing myself to the group! When I looked on the church's website, I was stunned to find that the pastor of this Presbyterian church had started up a Meet-Up group devoted to viewing meaningful / inspirational movies with a discussion afterwards. Exactly what I wanted when I went to see The Adjustment Bureau alone. This group has not seen The Adjustment Bureau. It looks like the overall taste runs a little more artsy / intellectual than my tastes. But, we'll see what movies the group might want to see as the months roll by.

Tonight was my second session with this Power of Myth series. In the discussion group, I was tempted to share my thoughts, but I'm not that comfortable sharing quite yet. I enjoy hearing other people's ideas. I was stunned to hear one Christian man question the need for a heaven. He was talking like an atheist. Its sad to me when I hear people reject the false ideas of heaven (the winged angels playing harps on a cloud view of heaven) without an inkling about how one might learn more about the topic. There are so many books about Near Death Experiences and heaven to read. All one has to do is read up on the subject and see how the information resonates with them. Maybe its true, maybe its not...but your imagination gets ignited and your soul feels euphoric bliss.

Last week's discussion, I was stunned to hear comments by the elderly people of this faith community lamenting the lack of young people involved in church. So, even the Presbyterians are going through the same crisis that the Community of Christ is. In a way, that discovery was comforting, because it shows that its not necessarily a problem with our church denomination as it is with our generation (apathetic and cynical). I was stunned that even though the church is offering a thought-provoking series such as this to foster dialogue, the turn-out skewed towards retirees. But as I hear their stories, I'm liking what I hear. Though I belong to a different denomination, it is refreshing to hear the same ideas and concerns going on among members of this more establishment church.

Its going to be a great four more weeks. After tonight's session, I was beaming all the way home. My soul so needed this! Too bad the Community of Christ is not open enough to offer such a program for members. Its always preferable to experience things with members of my own "tribe", but its also good to meet new people (of a different "tribe") and see what we have in common. I guess this makes me more ecumenical than evangelist!


T said...

Another fantastic book for writers: Story by Robert McKee. He, too, uses the campbell stuff.It goes without saying that any time you can use mythic magerial in a novel, DO it. Everything in fiction is about archetypes, Sansego. You live archetypes, you can certainly write about them, create them. As Capt Picard use to say: Make it so!

T said...

Oh - typo. MATERIAL.

Years ago, we sat in Lucas's library at Skywalker Ranch while rob was working on an Indiana Jones novel. It was the most astonishing metaphysical collection of books I've ever seen.

Sansego said...

I wish George Lucas would've made the film version of "What Dreams May Come" by Richard Matheson, or direct some other movie set in heaven. The scenes of the planet Naboo in his Star Wars prequels look exactly the way I picture a city in the heavenly realm. Also, the Jedi Library is so cool looking, I hope the one in heaven has glowing blue lights like that!

pat m said...

One of my favorite sayings from Campbell is that christians can so easily recognized the myths of other religions but unable to understand the myths of christianity.