Joseph Campbell

The Hero's Cycle: How to approach a story

Last time, we talked about Myth Makers, and I have say, this is a hard post for me to write.  I have talked about the hero's cycle before, most notably when I defended it from the cretins at io9 in my Why the Hero's Cycle Simply is.  The main reason I am having a hard time with this post is time.  There are books about it, and not one come close to describing it in the depth it deserves.  I will try my best to keep this short and to the point.

Monomyth

Joseph Campbell (circa 1984)
Image via Wikipedia

Joseph Campbell had an insight about the architectural underpining of every great story ever written.  He called this story the Monomyth or Hero's Cycle.  Any time you have a story about good verses evil ,or struggle, or the search to get or destroy something, the monomyth is there.  I have yet to find a story that doesn't follow the monomyth.

He presented it in his wonderful book Hero with a Thousand Faces.  While many writers have used it to inspire their fiction, Campbell's purpose was to teach people how to read a story and discover its meaning.

The Lens of Mythology

Stories look very different when you read them through the monomyth.

Hero's Cycle

Most stories start at the Call to Adventure, but that is always the case.  Any part of the cycle may contain an entire cycle within it, or they may be skipped in their entirety.

How to see the Monomyth

The cycle helps you isolate where you are in the story and dig into it a little deeper.

The call to adventure is the event that leads the hero to embark on the adventure.  The hero is ignorant about the true nature of the world and something causes them to seek a remedy for this ignorance.

Along the way they encounter a helper who is a part of the world they do not understand.  This helper could be good or evil.  Their motives are not important.  Their function is to give the hero the courage they need to cross the threshold of adventure.

A crisis befalls the hero and they find themselves somehow lost in unfamiliar ground.  They have no idea where they are or how they can ever get back.  It is too late.  They are committed to the adventure now.

The hero is tested to their limits, and constantly tempted to give up.  Along the way, the encounter more helpers.  Some may be the same as before, but his real challenge to is realize that there is something about them he has to incorporate into himself.  Unless he grows, taking on their positive characteristics and rejecting their negative ones, he will not be able to complete his task.

Next, he is face to face with the solution to the problem.  He has this last chance to decide if he really wants it or not, and how he is going to acquire it.

After he has gained the solution, he has to go back or get out.  If he was meant to have the solution, he will be aided in his flight.  If not, he will be pursued in his flight, the negative forces trying to destroy him.

The final challenge is to cross the return threshold and survive.  All of the negative powers are allied against him to make their last stand.

On the other side of the threshold, the hero must get the elixer to those who need it, completing his quest.

Every story follows this basic pattern.

How to use the Monomyth

Once you have isolated the individual parts, you can see the underlying core of the story.  The trick is to understand that this entire adventure has been a journey to mature and develop the mind of the hero.  Every element presented a psychological or archetypal piece of the puzzle that would make the hero into a hero.

After a while, it becomes second nature to see a story in this way, and to glean from it meaning that the writer might not have even realized was there.  It is a valuable tool to both the writer and the reader/viewer.

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What is Mythology?

Before we can make any in depth study of Mythology, we have to understand what we are dealing with.

First, it must be understood that mythology is more than just the tales we have inherited from Homer, or the brilliant Sagas of the Norsemen.  It is even something more than "other people's religion," as Joseph Campbell used to jokingly say.

"A whole mythology is an organization of symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time (Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That, pp1-2)."

Myths are found in literature as well as in religion.  They speak to somewhere deep in our unconscious mind, and if we are lucky, they will instinctively guide our development.  Even though many of these myths change us through a process not unlike osmosis, it is important for us to learn how to recognize a myth, so we can choose whether or not we want to assimilate it into our lives.

Now I do not have the time or space in this essay to detail everything that needs to be said on the subject.  That is the purpose of the Foundation section of the website.  For now, I will focus on what I see that the most important aspect of mythology: how it functions in our individual and collective lives.

Where do Myths Come From?

"First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21, NRSV)."

This is perhaps the most misunderstood passage from the western tradition.  Many have used it to try to show the superiority of their particular theology over their rivals.  Others have disregarded it altogether, but it does answer the question of where myths come from.

Let's take a look at Joseph Campbell's explanation of the origin of myth, and pay close attention to how these two answers overlap:

"Mythology is composed by poets out of their insights and realizations.  Mythologies are not invented; they are found.  You can no more tell us what your dream is going to be tonight than we can invent a myth.  Myths come from the mystical region of essential experience (Joseph Campbell, Myths of Light, p xix)."

No one can invent a myth, but I would also contend that there is nothing spooky going on here either.  What is the difference between a myth and a good story?  The myth speaks to something deep down within our souls.  They tell us that their is more to the story than we caught at first glance.  Great stories don't.

This is not because some spook is whispering arcane secrets into the poet's ear, it is (more often than not) because the story took on a life of its own and carried the poet along with it.  It is only when the unconscious mind is active in the creative process that a myth can be born.  We all carry these forms within us.  It is for the artist to step aside long enough to let them show through.

A good example of this is George Lucas.  He set out to write a new myth, but found that it would not cooperate with him.  He had writer's block.  Eventually, he put aside everything that he wanted to write about, and just wrote.  Star Wars is undoubtedly a triumph of the muse over the artist.

Once a myth is found by the poet, and they share it with society, it will take on a life of its own.  All myths operate in society in four ways.  In this, they help to shape culture, and are in turn shaped by it.

Mystical Function

"The first must be to open the mind of everybody in the society to that mystery dimension that cannot be analyzed, cannot be talked about but can only be experienced as out there and in here at once (Joseph Campbell, Myths of Light, p 5)."

This is where most western religions break down, and it is the aspect of modern myth that is most often overlooked.  The Mystical Function of a myth is to help the participant to realize that the outer forms that are portrayed are emblematic of the forces at work within the psyche.

Out there is really in here.  This is the first secret.  In the Matrix Trilogy, the mythic dimensions open to us when we see that the Matrix itself is symbolic of our mind, but the flood gates open when we can see that Zion is as well.  All of these outer images speak of internal conflict.  We all have our own Agents in our heads trying to fight against us.

Why do these aspects of our psyche come into view through these stories?  Because they are beyond naming, beyond analysis.  I will view the agent in completely different terms than you will, since he takes on aspects of our own inner struggle.  If I used something other than this mythic image, I could only explain my own inner demons, and you may or may not be able to relate.  Once it is concretized, it can only speak to my condition.  As a symbol it can speak to our condition.

The Architect and the Oracle are the best examples of what I'm talking about.  Many people I've talked to have compared them to God and the Devil, but few agreed on which was which.  Even when they did, they couldn't agree to why.

We can also see these images as symbolic of the collective psyche of our culture or world.  As you can see, they still reveal the hidden indefinable aspects of our culture in terms that are useful to our minds, while leaving them open to interpretation.

That is the first function of myth: It speaks to the individual and the culture simultaneously, and helps them to see what is going on within them.

Cosmological Function

"The second function of a mythology is to present an image of the universe that connects the transcendent to the world of everyday experience (Joseph Campbell, Myths of Light, p 5)."

I really don't want to get into the issue of whether or not there is a god, that is a topic for another set of articles.  What I am talking about now is simply "The Transcendent."  Whatever that might mean to you: God, energy, higher dimensions, or the driving force of history itself.  There is something that transcends our ordinary experience.  Maybe it is something as simple as love, or cosmic order; but the question is, how does that relate to me?

In Babylon 5,  the question is approached from many angles.  Basically, a scientific answer is elevated to a level of cosmological significance: we are the universe trying to understand itself.  Here, the universe, the very unadorned ground of being is presented to us as the transcendent mystery, and we are fragments of that universe trying to comprehend itself in the only way it can: from the inside.

If this presentation of the mystery has any resonance within us, it provides a metaphor to understand our relationship to the transcendent.  Now, we have a window into our own everyday lives that we can use to understand why we are here, and what is the purpose of everything.

Sociological Function

"The third function is to present a social order by which people will be coordinated to the mystery (Joseph Campbell, Myths of Light, p 5)."

This is perhaps the most dangerous and controversial aspect of mythology.  The social order depicted is always tied directly to the same era as that the myth was composed in.  Very few myths are truly timeless.  Most are filled with archaic views that must be refuted for the myth to have any relevance in the modern world.  We do this all the time, often without even noticing.

Should we blindly accept these outdated concepts, we become a danger to ourselves and to civilization itself.  The news is full of examples of what I'm talking about.  We only have to look at the pro-lifer who shoots a doctor to "save lives," or the events of 9/11.

That is why it is important to regularly question everything, even our most basic assumptions and beliefs.  It is not enough to just question, we have to be prepared to give up any belief we find to be false.

The Sociological Function of mythology does have a positive side.  It builds communities and fills them with a sense of common purpose.  The American Dream is one such myth.

Star Trek is a great example of this.  After being on television for only three years, it spawned a large community that grew, and even thrived in absence of any real input from those who created it.  Star Trek embodied the ideals of honor, courage, and IDIC.  IDIC is a concept indigenous to the Star Trek Universe: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination.  The diehard fans of the series have taken these ideals to heart and actually try to live by them.  For all of the scorn heaped on the phenomenon, I think a lot of good has come out of it.  What better ideals for people to base their lives on?

This new social order arose from the myth of its own accord, and led many people to a better understanding of their place in the universe.

Vital Function

"Finally the fourth function of the mythology is to carry the individual through the course of life (Joseph Campbell, Myths of Light, p 5)."

From birth to adulthood to marriage to children to death, myths provide a pattern to help people understand their lives and give meaning to them.

For me the music of the band Queensryche has served this function quite well.  Not alone, I do have other influences, but they have developed with me.  From their albums Rage for Order and Operation: Mindcrime that helped me in my confused teen years, to Empire that opened my eyes to the real world around me, their music has been a companion sharing insight with me when I needed it most.  When I went out on my own and found out just how evil the world can be, Promise Land came out and helped me to realize that I was not alone, and their was a better future to work for.  Ever since 9/11, I had found myself in a haze.  Nothing seemed to make sense anymore.  Then came Tribe.  They gave words to my pain, a cure to my nightmares, and renewed hope for the future.

In every stage of my life so far, they have told a tale to illuminate the way.  That is the Fourth Function of myth.

Unconventional Myths

I have used many different mythologies to explain the four functions of myth.  I could have used just one for all of them, but I wanted to illustrate a point.  We don't have to choose one mythology to the exclusion of everything else.  Each of these myths have something different to say, and each one speaks to the soul in a different way.  Together with many others, they have helped me to be the best me I can be, and that is what all myths are meant to be.

Some people may object to me calling some of these myth:  "They are just entertainment.  Aren't you taking them too seriously?"

The answer is no.  Myths are discovered, not made (remember?).  Science Fiction, Fantasy, horror, and non-classical music are usually relegated to a second class status to more "realistic" genres.  They are no less capable of delivering insight than Joyce or Hemmingway.  Much ink has been spilled on them, it is time to open the closet and let the other genres out to have their moment in the sun.

Footnotes

The scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Romancing the Word: The Spirituality of Nonfiction

Mythos-1 There is something missing in the copious tomes of nonfiction that are coming out these days: the courting of the mind through conversation and dialogue.

Most nonfiction writers today either tell a creative nonfiction story giving the reader the experience of the events of history through story or they simply talk to their readers instead of inviting them into conversation.

Classical and even Medieval philosophy are written in a the form of dialogues and rarely in diatribes. When I read these texts, I am drawn into conversation with the author and their ideas. I join the conversation, adding my opinions to theirs. I have no doubt that they expected me to more often than not except what they wrote, but in the common dialectics and arguments they wrote, they challenge their own ideas and answer the objections in a way that eased their own doubts.

I am a voracious reader of nonfiction. I love to flirt with new ideas and challenge my own cherished beliefs. Many times I have changed my mind on some issues that I never thought were open for debate.

Lately, though, many of the books I picked up felt they had more to tell me than to share. I do not know if it is the narcissism of our age or of the writers, but they no longer present their ideas to me as a something I might want to take in and get to know, maybe even fall in love with. Their ideas are to be accepted and followed.

I have written about this many times and in many ways, but everything is a story. No idea, concept, or belief will ever reside comfortably in the hearts and minds of people unless they connect to the story of it, and long to add themselves to the line of those who have picked up the idea before them.

Nonfiction is the romancing of the mind through words, stories, metaphors, and connection.

Have you ever noticed the relationship people have with the theory of gravity? It is amazing how people connect to the apocryphal story of Newton and the apple. We feel like we understand the concept through these stories.

Or take the works of Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, and Brian Greene. They connect some of the most abstract theories of physics to stories and metaphors that anyone can understand. They invite their readers into the conversation, and help them through the hard parts with grace and love filling their words.

Joseph Campbell writes as if he is sitting next to you telling a story. The ideas come alive. We are able to commune with them, flirt with them, even take some home with us.

That is the task of nonfiction. Screeds, polemics, and proclamations of any idea will only be accepted by those who have already accepted the idea. If you want someone to love an idea as much as you do, you have to show them the beauty of it.

Life as a Story

I went out to write at the San Francisco Bread Company today. The longer I write, the more I realize how important it is to get out of the house, even if it is only to sequester myself at a small table in a cafe with my headphones on listening to music, surfing the web, struggling with new concepts and editing a book I wrote that I actual enjoy reading. It is odd how something as simple as a change of venue from my office to a cafe can change my mood and energy level, but I have read enough from other writers to know that I am not alone.

I have a theory about why something as simple as a change of venue can so profoundly effect a writer's mood.

I started writing as a defense mechanism. As a child, I grew up on a farm miles from the closet kid my age. I spent most of my time either on the phone, outside with my dog Red, or in my room inventing new stories with my Voltron and He-man action figures. When this wasn't enough, I started drawing crude comics and playing out a sort of paper theater with playing cards and my imagination. Through all this, my imagination was fueled by He-man, She-ra, Transformers, the books of Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain, and the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. I didn't have anyone to play with, so I spent my time making up stories about these fantastical creatures, demigods, and demons. The music of Kiss and Dolly Pardon filled my nights in my room watching "Too Close for Comfort" dreaming of the day I would write my own "Cosmic Cow" strip.

When we moved to Maryland, things got worse. I had a strong accent, which got me beaten up in school a lot, and I had not people skills so the few friends I did make really had to work hard to get past my clumsy social interactions. I didn't know how to relate with these "people." They were so different from me, and they expected me to know how to act with them. I just didn't.

My salvation came through The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and my knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons. I played these games with them as a means of interacting. They gave a structure to our together time and gave me a common language to speak. In time, we added Marvel Superheroes, Robotech, Earthdawn, and the many classic White Wolf storyteller games- Vampire: The Masquerade, Were-wolf, Mage: The Ascension, Changeling: The Dreaming. In fact, I became friends with Brian through a Vampire Chronicle.

Through this role as the storyteller, Star Trek Fandom, and my near obsessive interest in music, I found my medium to talk to others.

Storytelling is who I am. It is how I comprehend the world and explains why I am so deeply involved with the works of Joseph Campbell. This is who I am for better or worse. From the many biographies about other writers I have read, I think we have all taken up the life of a storyteller as some sort of defense mechanism or way to make sense of the world. It is easier to lock yourself away from the world than to jump in and struggle within it.

When I force myself out of my cave, even if only to isolate myself from the settings I find myself in through headphones and work, it reminds me that the outside world is still there. It lets me see how people actually interact with each other, for better or worse, and on those rarest of occasions, allows me to have incredible conversations with people face to face.

It is hard to explain how isolating is can be at times to be a storyteller. The hours, days and weeks spent locked away from the world crafting a reality that I hope others will experience and enjoy with the same fervor that I do. The simple act of seeing other people and hearing other voices enlivens me.

Like other writers, I am an observer of life much more than I am a participant in it. These little glimpses of the world outside my friends and family and the characters I write about (feels more like with sometimes), grounds me and helps connect me with the bigger world that is so easy to let slip away.

I wish more people shared this experience. Looking out at this world of strangers that I may or may not ever see again, and watching the plots they have entwined themselves in. We all tell our own stories. That is the art of conversation, to weave an entertaining tale about ourselves and others. As these plot lines co-mingle and intertwine, the story of our family, friends, city, state and nation are told. These stories often matter more than the facts. (whether or not that should be true or not is a whole other discussion).

I recommend that you give this a try. Next time you are out with friends, watch the stories that you are telling each other closely and follow them out as if they are plot lines in a novel, movie, or television show. It is startling how often you can predict other peoples actions by listening to their backstory, current plot, and projecting that out as it would play out in the genre appropriate to the person. I am not saying that this is always the case, but more often than not you will be able to see what will happen before it does. This is also the best way to choose your course of action. How will your action effect the other all story. Try it out, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Follow Your Bliss

blisschaser The words "Follow Your Bliss" have been overused and misused in so many different contexts that they have become cliche and trite, but the goal that they express is one that needs to be remembered. Joseph Campbell first started using the phrase as a short hand for a much larger idea, and like all short hand the original meaning has to be brought up from time to time.

In many forms of yogic philosophy, enlightenment is achieved through Sat-cit-ānanda:

  • right or perfect being: Sat (सत्)
  • right or perfect consciousness: Cit (चित्)
  • right or perfect bliss: Ānanda (आनंद)

According to the story that Campbell told in the Power of Myth, he did not know how to tell if his being is right or perfect, or he consciousness, but he knew where his bliss was, so he could Follow His Bliss, and hopefully stumble upon the other two.

Bliss is not pleasure. It is happiness. The basic question is: "What makes you happy?" There is something that you do that makes time fall away, makes you happy, and makes you content.

The idea behind "Follow Your Bliss" is that each of us should find that one thing that fills us with bliss and follow after it to see where it leads us. Campbell equated this activity with seeking out our destiny. Our Bliss shows us what it is we not only enjoy doing, but what we are good at.

When we follow our bliss, it is amazing how invisible hands reach out to help us along the way. This, again, is where people often over sell. Following our Bliss will not necessarily make us rich, but it will make us successful.

If we define our success as a having a lot of material goods and riches, then we will most likely fail. Success us better measured by our relationships and our ability to sustain a good quality of life.

The question is: How do we find our bliss?

What makes you happy? Do you like to read, write, build things, watch movies, play games? What ever you like to do, find a way to follow after it. Don't be embarrassed, and don't let yourself dwell on how you will make money at it. The goal is to have a fulfilling life.

Before we can move forward, we have to find our bliss. What makes you happy?

Why The Hero's Journey Simply Is

When idiots speak, I tend to ignore them, but when they make it worse, then I cannot stay silent. I felt that I had to say something, especially since it is the last time I will ever read or site io9 for anything.

When Charlie Anders wrote, New Proof That Every Scifi Epic Is Based On Joseph Campbell, I thought, "No one could be that stupid." The Hero's Cycle described by Joseph Campbell is the underlying structure of folk tales, legends, and myths found around the world. In fact, every well crafted story will follow the cycle, as it is the natural progression of events.

Then Charlie poured salt in the wound with, Eight Reasons Why the Hero's Journey Sucks. Let me take them one by one...

If Charlie had not been stoned while reading Hero with a Thousand Faces, something might have sunk in... O that is not me attacking this poor blogger, to quote the article:

Hey, we got stoned and read The Hero With A Thousand Faces in college, just like everybody else, and we thought it was super deep.

At any rate, let us examine the eight points.

  • It's a formula.

All story telling is formula. Beginning, middle, end. Inciting event, rising action, climax, denouement.

But over time, lazy writers like George Lucas have used it as a checklist.

While I will never defend the multitude lazy writers that are ruining fiction, it is equally lazy to blame mythopoeism for lazy writers. There is no story that does not follow the Cycle, so to say the the formula is boring is to say that every story is boring. Bad writers are boring, put the blame where it is due.

  • It discourages originality

To prove this point the author claims that Firefly/Serenity is original and as such does not follow the Heroes Cycle. Lets test that using the plot description from Wikipedia:

Call to Adventure

The crew of Serenity lands on an Outer Rim planet, planning to rob a local security firm of its payroll. Serenity's captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds is accosted by Simon, irate over Mal's decision to include River in the heist and expose her to danger. Mal overrules Simon's objections and the heist proceeds. All goes according to plan until River detects the arrival of the Reavers, a horde of feral, spacefaring cannibals. As the Reavers massacre the town's inhabitants, the raid-team narrowly escapes back Serenity, where Simon, outraged over River's near-death experience, declares that he and River will be leaving Serenity at the next spaceport.

The crew disembarks at a trading post and enters a bar to meet with Fanty and Mingo, the men who hired Serenity for the heist. River wanders into the bar and observes a television advertisement, which causes her to immediately and brutally attack the other patrons. As she prepares to shoot Mal, Simon arrives and utters a code phrase, immediately rendering River unconscious. Thoroughly confused, Mal takes River and Simon back to Serenity, where Simon reveals that River was conditioned to be an Alliance assassin.

Supernatural Aid

Mal contacts Mr. Universe, a reclusive techno-geek who analyzes the bar security camera footage and discovers a subliminal message in the advertisement that, based on the quality of the encoding, reveals the involvement of the Alliance.

Crossing the First Threshold

Unknown to the crew, the message was placed by the Operative, a self-described monster with no name or rank, dispatched by the Alliance to retrieve River at all costs.

The Belly of the Whale

Mal receives a call from Inara Serra, a former passenger asking for help with local unrest. Despite recognizing the request as an Alliance trap, Mal visits Inara and meets the Operative, who offers to release Mal if he surrenders River. Mal refuses and, after being saved from defeat by Inara's quick thinking, escapes with her back to Serenity.

The Road of Trials

Aboard the ship, River reveals the existence of "Miranda," an Outer Rim planet deemed uninhabitable by the Alliance and located on the far side of a Reaver spacefleet. After the Operative wipes out all of Serenity's ports of refuge, Mal overrides his crew's protests, disguises Serenity as a Reaver vessel and sneaks through the Reaver spacefleet unmoleseted before landing on Miranda, a planet that while fully habitable contains only corpse-filled cities.

The Meeting with the Goddess/Atonement with the Father

A holographic diary entry from an Alliance officer explains the Alliance attempted to bring peace to the population by filling the atmosphere with an anti-aggression drug. The drug's effects were drastic, completely suppressing the population's motivation to self-sustain, except for the 0.1% who had the opposite reaction and became the hyper-violent Reavers.

The Ultimate Boon

Mal declares his intentions to broadcast this message to the solar system via Mr. Universe's powerful transmitters, aware of the Operative and the certain trap that awaits them.

The Magic Flight

As the Operative mobilizes an Alliance fleet above Mr. Universe's planet, Mal provokes the Reaver fleet into pursuing Serenity and leads it into a massive space battle with the Alliance. With both sides distracted, Serenity, pursued by a Reaver ship and the Operative in an escape pod, crash-lands at Mr. Universe's station. The Reavers kill Serenity's pilot Wash, the crew evacuates the ship and sets up defensive positions against the arriving Reavers, and Mal descends into the station to transmit the Miranda audio diary.

Rescue from Without

The crew's defense begins to crumple beneath the Reaver assault, while deep in the station, the Operative ambushes Mal. The crew retreats behind a blast door, which jams before it can close. With everyone wounded and ammunition low, River dives through the blast door and seals it, and immediately begins fighting the fierce Reavers.

The Crossing of the Return Threshold

Meanwhile, Mal narrowly defeats the Operative and leaves him to watch the broadcast of the audio diary.

Master of the Two Worlds

As a wounded and exhausted Mal rejoins the crew, the blast doors open to reveal River standing victorious amid piles of dead Reavers. Alliance troops burst onto the scene, but the Operative, his faith in the Alliance shattered by the Miranda message, orders the soldiers to stand down.

Freedom to Live

The crew buries their deceased friends and repairs Serenity. As the ship prepares to leave, the Operative approaches Mal and warns him of certain retaliaton by the Alliance. Mal returns to Serenity's cockpit and with his new co-pilot River, blasts into space.

Oops... it follows the hero's cycle too... So was it original or not?

  • Why is one hero so special anyway?

The author thinks there can only be one hero... forgetting about the round table and the fact that even Star Wars had multiple heroes. This point cannot even be taken seriously.

  • The "hero" is always a d00d

In the limited sample the author chose, but as always forgetting the historical context. Most heroines have only come about recently. This is something that changes with time. The hero marries the goddess and finds atonement with the Father, because the goddess is the symbol of the beneficial powers of life and the Father represents the judgmental universal punisher.

  • It's cheesy as hell

The author takes Campbell out of context and mocks him. That is just lazy.

  • He shoehorned a lot of myths into his theory

In complaining that Campbell ignores East Asia and Africa is to pretend that he never wrote the Masks of God books among others. This point is too ignorant to discuss any more.

  • It confuses personal growth with solving problems

Campbell's monomyth is unrealistic and spreads the idea that war is therapy.

Campbell's monomyth makes the claim that we project our inner problems on others and that we cannot fix the problem until we see what it actually is. Yeah, this is unrealistic. No one would start a war with another nation for no real reason other than that they see their own personal demons in the other nation... that has never happened.

The Hero's Cycle does not describe fiction, but also the patterns in our own life. This author has obliviously done that with Campbell's work.

This is the last time I will read io9. Most of their posts have been bad since they started, but their intellectual laziness is too much for me to take anymore. I just had to defend Campbell from these idiotic and hollow arguments.

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Stardust best fantasy tale since The Princess Bride

51pu-9 TnSL._SL210_ Tristan Thorne is a humble shop boy from a small English town. He has a problem because he found his true love Victoria Forrester only she was being courted by Humphrey the town hunk.

Tristan fianlly gets Victoria to enjoy a romantic dinner under the starlight only to find that Humphrey was willing to travel to another town to get her an engagement ring for her birthday. After watching a falling star Tristan makes a deal with Victoria that she will marry him if he gets her the falling star and returns to her by her birthday which is within one week. The problem is that the star fell on the other side of the Wall which divides England and the magical world of stormhold.

The rest of the tale is an adventure fairy tale following Tristan as he races to get to the fallen star and return before the week is up. He also has to survive while the evil witches and the Kings murderous sons also pursue the fallen star in hopes of cutting out it's heart for eternal life.

This is the best epic quest / fantasy tale since The Princess Bride! I give it 10 out of 10, wow! Stardust is pure art* presenting me with a delightful tale suspending me in time and space through it's immaculate reality*. The twists and turns of the story surprised me and even though it had a typical fairy tale ending I was proud for the hero whom I cared about watching him grow in skill and character and actually earning the happy ending.

Tristen is set on an epic quest with only one week to earn the love of his true love by getting the fallen star and return back through the wall. All of the classic elements of a Joseph Campbell's hero's journey were present but Neil Gaiman enhanced the tale with delightful touches to those steps. One instance was when the hero was about to cross the threshold and got denied by the threshold guardian. I mean he got his ass kicked by that old man who demonstrated an unexpected proficiency with that stick, I was in tears from laughing so hard.

Stardust is an expression of pure art bringing me to a suspended moment through a beautiful balance between drama, action, comedy, and tension. There are many films that try to get this balance but many merely push and pull me from one moment to the next taking me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions leaving me feeling drug out and tired at the end of the film. Neil was able to get it so that I laughed often while griping the edge of my seat thrilled by the action and drama of the scene.

Neil uses a delightful sense of dark humor that put such a twisted smile on my face. He just hits you right from the start of the movie with a murder that I could only laugh at because it was delivered with such tong in cheek. Neil has the King disappointed in his sons because they haven't murdered each other yet, desiring only the strongest son to survive and ascend to become the next ruler of Stormhold. As shocking as the kings position was Neil made it seem so natural that a short distance into the film I found myself only laughing when a son would get himself killed, thinking to my self 'well he wasn't kingly material,' like it was some kind of acceptable behavior. Twisted... I love it.

Throughout the movie there is a beautiful exploration of true love. This story line was masterfully woven into the tale and takes the audience all the way to the very last scene where we find out that true love is not conditional and it is eternal.

The artwork, set design, and graphics all lend to the immaculate reality that Stardust is able to forge from the very beginning and maintain through to the credits. For example the wall that separates England from the magical world of Stromhold was short maybe 3 feet tall yet I never once thought to question why everyone passed through the crack in the wall and not just jump over it. Another example would be on the air ship where the crew collects lightening but it seems so natural like any other type of fishing barge that is out the on the ocean.

The special effects were absolutely beautiful. I loved the scene when the evil witch used her magic to create a road side in by having it form from a point in space and expand out until it filled the normal space it should fill. The subtle use of a light effect for Una which made he glow but they did it in such a manner as to make the whole thing seem so natural. Not only well done on the effects but they added to the immaculate reality keeping me pulled into the world Neil created.

With all of this raving I do have to say "Please, Please stop the use of the helocoptor pan shot." I am so sick of seeing a helicopter pan shot of people walking. Why not try something different. If you want to show them walking a long distance then put the camera behind them and focus on a far off distance point in front of them or something else. I was also disappointed when the director let Una ride the unicorn in an un lady like fashion and did not make her ride side saddle.

The plot twists were really well played in Stardust. Neil builds beautifully an expectation, lulls the viewer into a false sense of security and then blows your mind by zigging when you expect the plot to zag. I could sit here and list the many, many instances when this occurs but I don't believe in putting spoilers into reviews and for those readers who have already seen the film then you already know of the moments I am speaking of and you are probably sitting back like me with a big goofy grin on your face as you recall those moments.

In addition to maintaining such a tight immaculate reality with beautiful effects Stardust had some wonderful little touches too like the use of traditional folk magic. Neil surprised me by not turning to the traditional overused and expected forms of divination like the use of the crystal ball, reflecting pool / mirror, seeking an old shaman but instead had two less used forms the main one being the use of intestinal divination. Yes folks, things get eviscerated so that the witches can view their organs to see the future. As gross as this practice is they did a wonderful job with it making it seem so natural and by not showing anything to the audience and thereby avoiding the modern day trap of being grotesque. The other form of divination was the use of rune tossing. All I can say is that there is a beautifully tense scene on a beach that just wowed me.

In the end it is all about the performance and everybody loves a good show even swashbuckling, murdering, privateers!

The movie Stardust is available through: Amazon.com UnBoxed, Widescreen DVD, HD DVD, or the Book Stardust written by Neil Gaiman.

The film stars: Adam Buxton as Quintus, Ben Barnes as Young Dunstan Thorne, Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorne, Claire Danes as Yvaine, David Kelly as Guard, David Walliams as Sextus, Henry Cavill as Humphrey Monday, Ian McKellen as Narrator, Jason Flemyng as Primus, Joanna Scanlan as Mormo, Julian Rhind-Tutt as Quartus, Kate Magowan as Una, Mark Heap as Tertius, Mark Strong as Septimus, Mark Williams as Billy, Melanie Hill as Ditchwater Sal, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia, Nathaniel Parker as Dunstan Thorne, Peter O'Toole as Lord of Stormhold, Ricky Gervais as Ferdy the Fence, Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare, Rupert Everett as Secundus, Sarah Alexander as Empusa, Sienna Miller as Victoria Forrester

*Art: as defined by James Joyce something that neither pushes nor pulls you but merely presents it's self holding you in the moment. As apposed to pornography which he describes as something that drives you either toward or away from it.

*Immaculate Reality: Akira Kurosawa talks about immaculate reality where the story / movie is so self contained that the audience is pulled in and does not question the events because they are natural within the reality crafted by the story / movie.

Adrift

Ok, things are getting better.  I think I have been able to isolate the cause of my anxiety.  Every since the election of the current pope, I have felt disconnected from the church and my faith.  I left the church shortly there after, and have joined in my Matthew Fox in his call for a new reformation, but where I live, I am very much alone in this opinion. Like many people, I find meaning and identity in my faith.  I believe in the sacraments and the rites of the church.  And now I am disconnected from that source of meaning and identity.  I feel isolated and alone.  I light my candles and continue to pray, but with out the church, I have lost access to communion...

...Communion... Joseph Campbell once said that he did not believe that we were searching for meaning, but that we were looking for the experience of being alive.  I think that can be summed up in that one word, communion.  The longing to feel a part of something greater than myself and the experience of community is to me a vital part of feeling alive.

I am disconnected from the town I live in... disconnected from my church... disconnected from my friends, family, and all of the things I love.  I have lost communion with all of these things.

Adrift in this sea of meaninglessness, I have found a way to stay afloat, but I need to find others adrift with me.  Together, we can build a new community where we can have communion together, and again find the experience of being alive.