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  • in reply to: “Riddle Me This,” with mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. #6607
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Gush away! Again, your remarks here are rich food for my soul. Thank you for these.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    in reply to: “Riddle Me This,” with mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. #6605
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Yes, the Riddle of the Sphinx continues to present itself with fresh challenges each time I encounter it. You mentioned:

    “Riddles bring back the Mystery to life … of life”

    I like your use of capitalization here, equating Mystery with other grounds of being such as God that also get capitalized. I think it’s especially true that riddles bring back the Mystery, suggesting a resurrection, a return — certainly something Campbell posited in so many contexts. The ongoing bringing back of the Mystery is a rhythm of wonder that we can continue to engage in and observe with awe. Occasionally we have a part to play ourselves in the bringing back of the Mystery. And those, those are the moments.

    Thank you for the powerful words.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    in reply to: “Riddle Me This,” with mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. #6604
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Ahhh, thank you James. Your response resonates so deeply with me. Your comments about games are causing me to dig deeper into my own thinking about myth and games. If you have time, take a look at my response to Stephen’s last post, as I also consider games further. The games you mention here are especially interesting in terms of finite/infinite games.

    Your quote from The Dead Poet’s Society (a story I adore) causes me to consider the dual meaning of “play” in that quote, and perhaps in general. So much to compare and contrast in those meanings. Such a rich quote.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    in reply to: “Riddle Me This,” with mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. #6603
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Stephen, you have no idea how delighted I am to hear about your connection to Carse’s book. I rarely encounter people familiar with it anymore. I knew I liked you ; )

    As usual, the Campbell quotes burst with richness I only aspire to on these topics. I also resonate with your juxtaposition of myths, fairy tales, and riddles. Your nuanced comparison was insightful for me.

    I’m thinking a great deal about your Shakespeare quote, context be damned. The play IS the thing. Carse would, of course, suggest that this is only true of infinite games and that finite games are instead designed to end play.

    Campbell’s resistance against providing hard and fast formulaic explanations of Joyce, as opposed to forms of exploration, perhaps speak to his (conscious or unconscious?) recognition of Finnegan’s Wake as an “infinite game” meant to keep play going indefinitely.

    As for the hovel/home riddle that you’ve brought in, I am especially drawn to the necessitated empathy of the riddle. This was something Joyce seemed to excel at. While I don’t recall Campbell pointing to that specifically, I hear it in the subtext of how he admiringly speaks of the way Joyce uses riddles throughout the text.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    in reply to: “Riddle Me This,” with mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. #6595
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Thank you so much, James. What a rich and thoughtful response. The stories you’ve mentioned and ideas you posit all deeply resonate. To submit my own synchronicity, I actually watched It’s a Wonderful Life just last night, so it feels a bit like you were reading my diary! Ha!

    One thing that struck me as I was reading your ideas was the connection back to games in the characters of Ebenezer Scrooge, George Bailey, and the mythical Don Quixote. Each of the characters is, of course, fictional. We could say that they perhaps embody an archetypal energy that has appeared in characters (and human beings) long before their creation. We could also say that the ritual we engage when we create characters and tell stories based on this archetypal energy is a bit of a game. When we play games, as many are prone to do around the Holiday season, we embody the archetypal energy of players. Depending on the complexity of the game, we may take on a wide variety of attributes and backstories, as is the case with role playing games (RPGs). When we watch or read characters like Ebenezer, George, and Don, we are observing a game play out where they are the players. We can hear myths and observe the game and we can embody and live out myths, which allow us to play the game. At least this is how I am thinking about it right now.

    Circling back to Joyce and Campbell, Campbell clearly observed the mythic game Joyce was constructing through the use of riddles. What other game “pieces” do we see Campbell observing in Finnegan’s Wake? Ideas?

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    in reply to: “Riddle Me This,” with mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. #6585
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Ahhhh Steven, such rich questions.

    First, allow me to address the subtext of your comments about the unique magic that riddles hold. You rightfully say, “It’s not like we have any experience with riddles in daily life.” I think this is EXACTLY why riddles delight us in such profound ways. The idea of a toll taker requiring us to solve a riddle in order to pass over a bridge would border on absurdity, taking us out of our common daily realm to somewhere else — or at least to a liminal space between reality and absurdity. Perhaps the map that riddles provide to this liminal space is what makes them kin to the family of myths, fairy tales, and folklore.

    I think it’s also of interest that you said “riddles take me back.” I share that same experience. Not only am I taken back to a younger physical “self,” I am also taken back to a time when wordplay was important to me. I, too, loved books of riddles, as a child. Through the aging process, I have been drawn into other matters of concern, and often forget about the simple yet profound joys that clever words can bring. It’s not even a matter of simple enjoyment, there seems to be something deeply meaningful happening in my unconscious when I contend with a riddle. Perhaps it is working at a level I am not fully meant to provide articulation to. I often feel a sense of mystery under the surface of a riddle that feels connected to the mysteries I encounter in myth and fairy tales.

    You ask about what riddles might have to do with the mythic imagination and I am thoroughly drawn into thinking about games, and their importance. Riddles could be considered a sort of game and psychologists are fairly unified in their opinion that games are important to our human development. I would be so bold as to suggest that the imaginal games we engage in as children are an expression of the mythic imagination. I would pretend to be Luke Skywalker when I was a young boy. I set out on adventures and battles with the dark side. I now look back and recognize that I was exploring the mythic in my imaginal games through the means most appropriate to my maturity at the time. (Full disclosure — you MIGHT sometimes still catch me dressed up in Star Wars attire at certain comic conventions.)

    I’ve been thinking a great deal about game theory and re-reading Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse, which I consider a masterpiece, through a mythic lens.  I wonder if anyone else might have thoughts about the intersection between riddles, games, and myth? I believe this intersection is a pathway into Campbell’s exploration of  Finnegan’s Wake.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    in reply to: Journeys in Silence, with Mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. #5616
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    What a wonderful line of thinking, Stephen. I was reminded of the power of AUM in my own meditative practices and how easily the remembrance of that power slips away from me. Like you, I find my comfort level with silence increases with age. As I go into the weekend, I am searching for the moments I will have that I can “fill” with silence.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    in reply to: Journeys in Silence, with Mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. #5608
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Thank you for your kind words, Shaahayda. I deeply resonate with your consideration of the many forms of silence. I, too, have many regrettable moments where I remained quiet and should have spoken and others when I wish I had not opened my mouth. Silence is an art form — one that requires practice, trial & error, and time with the craft in order to master. Just when I think I’ve found balance with silence and speaking in my life, I come to recognize my novice state.

    Your offering on Campbell and social media also resonates and feels aligned with his actions and beliefs in other arenas.

    Also, I am so thankful you’ve invited John Cage into this conversation. As you mention, he was a good friend of the Campbells and had so much to offer us on silence.

    Your thoughts here have caused me to think about the benefits and consequences of silence on social media in a slightly different way. As you mentioned, there are times when when I wish I had spoken up, but did not, fearing the devolving conversation that so easily can plague a conversation on social media. I am also reminded of the (perhaps apocryphal) sentiment sometimes attributed to MLK — that the words of our enemies would likely not be long remembered but the silence of our friends would. Oh, to find that balance.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    in reply to: Journeys in Silence, with Mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D. #5593
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Stephen, I’m so glad you asked. I was recently talking to David Abram (author of Spell of the Sensuous), who shared a story with me of a time when Campbell was indeed silent in his later years. It seems that David, who was a traveling sleight-of-hand magician throughout much of the 1980s, heard about the Inner Reaches of Outer Space conference happening in the Bay Area one day when he happened to be driving through San Francisco. He immediately swerved his car toward the next exit and made his way to the conference.

    Barbara McLintock happened to be carrying in boxes from her car when David drove up. He asked her if the conference had hired a magician. She looked a bit flummoxed and David proceeded to outline why the conference just couldn’t happen unless a magician was part of it. Barbara was persuaded by his speech and  set up a booth so he could perform in the lobby, just outside the plenary sessions. One morning after Campbell had spoken at the conference, Barbara came rushing into David’s booth. She said she needed him immediately. It turns out that George Lucas had unexpectedly come to the conference, wanting to meet Campbell. She had sat Lucas next to Campbell in the lunch room so the two of them could chat. However, Campbell was not an avid movie goer and completely unfamiliar with Lucas or his work. He sat in silence next to Lucas (who was also known to be a bit on the quiet side) creating an awkward moment for the other person at the table, who happened to be James Hillman.

    David rushed into the room, took out a deck of cards and began to engage Campbell and Lucas in classic misdirection with his cards. Campbell asked Lucas if he had arranged this moment with the magician. Lucas said he was about to ask Campbell the same thing. The ice was broken and the two men began to talk. David and Hillman both faded into the background. Their conversation became so rich that it led to Lucas inviting Campbell out to visit Skywalker Ranch, and the rest is history. I’ve since wondered, what if Campbell’s silence had prevailed and Lucas left the conference without really connecting with him? Campbell may have struggled with silence, as he alludes to in his writing. However, on that day, I am quite glad his lack of discipline prevailed.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Mary, these are wonderful questions and ideas to think about. Here are some brief initial thoughts about the individual items you raised.

    1) I have experienced this exact thing, where among a large class of peers, I sought the teacher as a mentors. When I have been so bold, the teachers have answered that call, except for in one particular instance. The alchemical recipe must be there between mentor and mentee, but I think most often it occurs when the student requests the mentor’s wisdom as the initial step forward.

    2) I think the magic between mentor and student can occur in any class, regardless of size. However, because of the often-personal nature of mentorship, my inclination is that it occurs more frequently in small groups. In a larger group, a student might take more responsibility for applying, expanding, and amplifying the mentor’s words, knowing direct access might be more challenging in that larger setting.

    3) Reciprocal approaches that a mentor in a large setting might consider could be 1) Scheduling small group meetings, where the members in a group have more direct access to the mentor than they would in the larger setting. 2) Personalizing feedback to students when possible in the larger setting. 3) Offering an off-site gathering one evening for socializing with the mentor.

    I have a friend whose work brought him great acclaim and so many individuals desired his mentorship that he simply couldn’t honor the requests or it would be all he did.He told me that one of the hardest lessons he had to learn was that whenever you gain something, you also lose something. He gained great popularity and acclaim for his work. However, he lost the ability to offer personal mentoring with most people that approached him. I think this is a balance that must be considered in this conversation as well.

    4) The same friend I just mentioned also told me that when he was supposed to mentor someone, he just knew, whether they explicitly asked or not. I think there is much truth to this. When the right moment rises, you just know.

    5) I love this question and am going to think more about it. I think you might be on to something here. I need to give it more thought.

    6) I think the questions you pose here get back to this bifurcation (that often is gray and unclear) between teachers and mentors. I certainly have had negative experiences with teachers that taught me a great deal. I think we often learn from those that don’t have our best interests in mind. In my own thinking about mentors, I think a mentor, in the most ideal sense, is invested in their mentee. I think they hold that individual’s best interests in mind, so I think negative influences and examples would rarely fall into the category of “mentor” for me, thought they often fall into the realm of “teachers.”

    Loving these insightful questions!

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    in reply to: Merlin . . . & the Lost Art of Mentorship, with Dr. John Bucher #4289
    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    I really love how you captured the above thoughts, Stephen. I agree. Some of my most powerful mentoring relationships have been more personal and less formal. I really appreciate you bringing in this moment from The West Wing, a favorite show of mine as well. That story that Leo shares really does encapsulate mentorship in so many ways.

    It reminds me of another story from the Jewish tradition about three village elders who went to visit a wise man who was passing through a nearby town. The elders spent the evening with the wise man — eating, chatting, and listening to his speak. Late in the evening when they were walking home, one of the elders apologized to the other two, saying,” Clearly, the wise man spent the entire evening just talking directly to me. I am sure that must have been a disappointment to you two.” One of the other elders stopped him, saying, “Certainly, you could see the wise man spent the entire evening, only speaking directly to me.” And finally, the third elder laughed at both men, stating, “Has your jealousy of me blinded you to the fact that the wise man only addressed me the entire evening?”

    The story reminds me of how mentors are able to speak so directly to our souls, even when perhaps others feel their words were only and solely meant for them. I am sure, as a teacher, you have experienced this, Stephen. Many hear the same words, but they strike at one student or mentee (I like that word you mention) so much more powerfully than another.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Jamesn, thank you for those insights and stories. I found them meaningful as they brought me joy.

    Shaheda, I really resonated with your question – “Could you have held your mentor in the back of your brain, lived and followed their ways, with a very foggy sense of why you do what you do?”

    I believe we absolutely can hold mentors in this way. This foggy sense of why we do what we do, in my opinion, speaks to the involvement of the unconscious. Some of the strongest convictions and experiences I’ve had began as and remain foggy in their origin.

    I was delighted with the story of your uncle. He sounds like he was such an interesting man. I was also moved by the ritual you’ve practiced with your uncle’s tin box. Like you, I also keep momentos of the mentors that have influenced me.

    You both mention the role that Campbell has played in your life, providing mentorship, even across time, space, and the here after. I am reminded of one of the most powerful lessons Campbell offered to me, as a mentor I never met in person. While he mentions the idea elsewhere, there is a wonderful interview that he gave to Parabola Magazine (Vol. 7 No. 1) where he talks about a number of different cultures where Shamans, Medicine Men, and other formal mentors are working with seekers and initiates. He mentions two key lessons these mentors embody for those individuals. The first involved learning to rest well. The second involved waking up. The balance of these two essential functions has become part of my daily, weekly, and yearly mindful practice. Resting well has never been more important in our fast moving culture. However, waking up (a motif that consistently appears throughout myth and fairytale) is life changing. In many ways, Campbell was responsible for my “waking up” but I’ve never forgotten that part of his “mentorship” was also to “rest well.” Are there lessons that have become essential to your life practice that originated with Campbell’s “mentorship”?

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Yes, thank you, Stephen for bringing up my previous essay on The Tiger King. JCF’s own, Bob Walter, inspired that MythBlast. Bob has selflessly offered mentorship in my life, remaining a constant source of insight and wise counsel.

    Thanks to all of you, and especially Tracy, for rising this question about female mentors. Dr. Maureen Murdock, author of The Heroine’s Journey, has been a mentor in my own life and served as the chair of my dissertation, guiding me through my own explorations of Campbell while always encouraging me to hold a feminine lens to his work. Maureen is one of many women that have journeyed with me as a mentor, offering wisdom and insights at moments I needed them most.

    I wonder who you might identify as mentors in your own journey? What was it that they provided that meant the most to you? Did you ever take the time to express your appreciation to them? I believe that appreciation (however ritualistic you can make it) is an important part of the mentorship process and cycle.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    Thank you for that warm welcome, Jamesn. I am glad you brought up the Senex/Crone archetype as I blieve there is much to be gained from that exploration. Hillman’s book on the Senex and the Puer was instrumental in areas of my thinking. The Crone archetype, of course, is that bringer of wisdom we find so important in mentoring. I saw a film that has not been released in the U.S. yet called LUXOR. In the film, a woman travels out to the desert to visit a Crone in modern Egypt. Her experience with this mentor in the film is POWERFUL, thought it only lasts one night. I am reminded how someone can serve as a mentor to someone else, even if the time together is limited.

    I deeply appreciated your words reflecting on my passion for imperfect mentors in our modern world. It is a key piece often missing in our society. I couldn’t agree more that mentors come in every expression of gender, including those free from that restraint. Some of the most impactful mentors in my life have been wise women that have walked the path beside me.

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

    John Bucher
    Participant
    Joined: September 16, 2019

    What a wonderful question, Tracy! I am delighted to report that mythology, speculative fiction, and of course history all have stories of female mentors. But not nearly enough! Male mentors are far more common in our older stories, which is a shame. Here are a few to consider, however:

    I immediately am reminded that it was Athena that disguised herself as Mentor when she appeared to Telemachus in The Odyssey. She is actually the one that encourages him to seek out his father.

    One of others that comes to mind is from Judeo-Christian mythology — Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth.  There are several moments in the narrative that demonstrate Naomi’s role as a mentor. However, none more profound than how she counsels Ruth to approach Boaz.

    Lysistrata was a mentor of sorts to the women that followed her lead. and lest we think that women can only mentor other women, I am reminded of Aphrodite, who could be argued was a mentor to Pygmalion. Great-Grandmothers also serve as mentors in a number of folk tales. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald would be an example.

    I am glad to see MANY more female mentors in modern narratives, but still not enough!

    Content Curator for Joseph Campbell Foundation

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)