Day 18: down in the mines, spinning

4 years ago

What a profound learning experience is this 30-straight days of writing 1,700 words a day! I am a little jealous of those people who are producing works of fiction from their neat (I imagine) little outlines. I, on the other hand, am hard at work in the mines of my own memory, my own experiences, spinning as fast as I can, straw into gold, Rumpelstiltskin impatiently keeping time.

On the other hand, though: gold.

I am deep in the realm of stories, fairytales and myths. In the past week, I've written about the Big Bad Wolf and the Little Mermaid. Yesterday's musings about The Armstrong Lie, which I saw in the theater on a rare night-out Saturday evening, sent me back to the Hero's Journey, sent me back to Sophomore honors English and the first time I ever heard about the work of Joseph Campbell.

You see, yesterday I became convinced that we're misunderstanding something essential about the hero's journey, when we're talking about the great disgrace of Lance Armstrong. We're missing some point of the narrative, what the true meaning and purpose of the hero really are.

His story's not finished. I'm sure of it. He's just down, down in the nadir of his own journey.

Once my writing was done yesterday, I went looking for the copy of The Hero with a Thousand Faces that has sat in a bookcase, unread, since its purchase years ago. Actually, not completely unread, as it turns out. As I turn the pages now, I find my handwritten notes and a receipt from 1991, from A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books. I send up praise to my own self and my habit of making books into time capsules by stuffing things in their pages.

From the very first sentence, I am completely hooked and stunned that I'd managed to leave this book unfinished all this time, since those long-ago days when I was building my library on mythology. 

I was too busy hero-ing, I guess, to be able to read about the journey with the perspective one needs to stand high and see it all.

Already I admit to some misgivings about the narrative (is this only for boys?), but am holding those aside as I dive into the words, which for me are utterly captivating

And yes, of course, I admit it: it helps that I almost immediately find myself -- the story of Ariadne on pages 23 and 24. 

If you've never read The Hero with a Thousand Faces, here's a taste, from very early on, Chapter 1, Myth and Dream.

The unconscious mind sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind -- whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves.  There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resised psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives And they may remain unsuspected, or, on the other hand, some chance word, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain.  These are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating, too, for they carry keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self. Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it; but then a wonderful resconstruction, of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life -- that is the lure, the promise and terror, of these disturbing night visitants from the mythological realm that we carry within.

So I'm spinning, spinning, but also full of this hero feeling, inspired, at work.

XX

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