In the book “The Power of Myth,” Joseph Campbell comments “‘All life is sorrowful’ is the first Buddhist saying, and so it is.” So how do we find contentment on our own individual journeys?
Years ago, I became friends with a woman who had come to the same small town in Michigan. Our friendship was bonded by a number of mutual interests. And, we believed it was more than serendipity that we shared the same birthday.
When “C” died, she had few guests at the visitation, and a small number of mourners at the church service –many who were members of the same church which she had attended regularly.
Her one and only child, a son, came from New York City to arrange for her funeral. He looked nothing like the black and white photo which had hung on her living room wall: a composite likeness of a youthful Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan. Instead it was a middle aged, ruddy complexioned individual who traveled to the Midwest to bury his mother.
While some might have viewed my friend’s circumstances as sad or lonely: a life that had little chance for happiness or fulfillment, “C” seemed to follow her path with ease. In reflection, part of the answer may be found in how this friend embraced her world.
“C” lived outside the city limits, on a less traveled, county road – a setting filled with trees and few homes. Before the great room concept was alive and booming, “C” had planned her home’s design so that her living room would be the largest spot in her very small house.
This room beckoned for the centering of one’s soul: the large, black wood burning stove was the object for meditative focus. And the windows filled one’s vision with her paradise: greenery and sky.
It was in this room where three to four of us would meet on a number of Sunday afternoons. “C” would read from her books – often from either “He” or “She” by Robert Johnson. Then she would engage us in the significance of the symbolism in the stories. Afterward, we would drink Darjeeling tea – allowing the thoughts of our discussions to settle.
At the time, I gave little pause to the real significance of these short-lived gatherings. But in retrospect, were those concepts and beliefs the foundation from which she positioned her life?
Like society’s never-ending quest for a Utopian world, I wonder if Man is capable of achieving the perfected wholeness that he seeks. Could there be a paralleled irony which embodies both society and Man? Or is this instead our individual and collective blessing?
Near the very end of the “The Power of Myth,” Campbell quotes Karlfried Graf Durckheim: “When you’re on a journey, and the end keeps getting further and further away, then you realize that the real end is the journey.”