“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else. ”
- Joseph Campbell
As you may know, Joseph Campbell is the anthropologist and mythologist who brought to our consciousness the now familiar phrase, ‘Follow your Bliss’. Reading those three words lately on a bumper sticker I was reminded how foreign a concept that was for me the first time I heard it. Joseph says that by following our bliss, our rapture, we are actually propelled on a path that leads us to our life purpose.
This reminded me of something that happened to me many years ago when I was in college. When I was a senior and about to graduate I needed to fill one last elective and aware of my lack of culinary skills I decided to take Home Ec. 101. One of the requirements was to complete a 10 page term paper on anything having to do with food.
While I was thinking about possible topics I had the creative impulse to write about preparing food and recipes for backpacking and camping. This was before the internet and the many books written on this topic and when I looked at the library I found only 2 books on the subject. All of my fears came out about not being able to find enough information to complete my paper so I choose instead a common topic, yeast breads, and set about writing my ‘safe’ paper.
I did put a lot of work into the paper but while I was writing about kneading and rising yeast bread, my heart and my thoughts were with pancakes sprinkled with fresh huckleberries cooked over an open fire and golden biscuits baked in a homemade oven at a high mountain lake. When I received my A- the teacher wrote in the margin that it was thorough but not very inspiring. At that moment I knew that my inspiration was with my original topic and I felt sadness and loss about the paper I didn’t write.
This rather insignificant and minor life decision had a deep impact on me and I vowed at that time to always follow my longing and not choose the safe way. Unfortunately, my youthful longing and promise to myself was largely forgotten as the stakes in life choices seemed to increase significantly higher than a grade on a term paper. Now, as I am reconnecting with my longings and my bliss, Josephs Campbell’s words echo inside of me. “We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes. “ While it is difficult for me to imagine that the world would have been significantly changed by me selecting a different topic for my term paper those many years ago, I do know that if I had written on a topic that inspired me, that there would have been a different impact. At the very least my paper would have not been boring and I believe there is something heroic in that. As Joseph says, “We save the world by being alive ourselves.”