Mythic Hero - Personal Reflections
By Lynne Milum
It has been many years since I have had the
opportunity to write to this blog. The website had
to be rewritten to work with new design tools and I have
struggled with time to just right. So writing is
once again in my goals for the new year. Much has
passed since the last entry...and memories swell back to mind as I glance at
I had some correspondance with Dr. Jimi James - she
had a significant birthday a couple of years ago and a
friend of hers saw my entry below. A few weeks
ago, I saw her picture in our Alumni newsletter and
learned something new - she taught the first graduates
in the Parkway school district and attended their
reunion last year. I recognized her
immediately, even after 35 years (+/-).
My son is now trying to close his Eagle Project, and
his current Scoutmaster is the other guy in the 70's
costume below. I have the honor of working with
Cooper in the Troop Leadership and he is still as fun
and energetic as 7 years ago. But my son has grown a bit
and is now quite a bit taller than Cooper (and me).
As a family, we have returned to Colorado at least
two additional times, and may new discoveries each time.
I am tired and it is late. I just have a few
more website fixes to make before I upload the site to
the new server and throw the switch. I look
forward to developing new content and enjoying the new
year. Keep looking for the heroes - we really need the
The last few years, I have relished a
personal banquet comprised of The Great Books. My
reading queue has been overwhelmed by the proposed
'canon' of many factions. I had a pretty good jump on
the BBC 100 when I started in 2005, but am now dismayed
by a list supplemented with Classical university
studies, psychology and historical tracts, Science
Fiction 100, Children's classic literature, and abundant
authoritative lists of 'must reads'.
My conclusion revisits the feeling of
despair I had at the age of eleven when searching my
parents library for something new. "I'll never be
able to read them all." Not only are there too many
books - there are too many esteemed books. My
initial response - Accelerate! But I find
that this is a detrimental approach to properly digest
the material. With audiobooks in particular (My 2-hour
daily commute is still in effect), I have difficulty
absorbing everything already and find I often need to
hear the work twice to really integrate the ideas with
my own. This is especially true of essays and other
non-fiction works, and less true of novels.
In the course of this adventure, I
have made a personal observation - there is a subset of
fiction I truly abhor. These authors are skilled in
dragging the reader through the muck of life, tasting
futility and suffering at a personal level. Their
success level is quite high on that point. However, in
each case there is no redemption either for the
character or for those around them. The story is never
reconciled, and therefore not satisfying. Perhaps it is
because I don't meet with a bunch of literary critics
who can tell me what the author really means. I find
this latter approach distasteful, because if you need a
departmental chair in literature to decipher the point -
what is the point? As pointed out in 'Back to
School' - Professor Turner asserts Vonnegut (Thornton
Melon's ghost writer) "...doesn't know the first thing
about Kurt Vonnegut."
This "Non-Redemptive" fiction genre
is at the forefront on my mind having just finished
Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim and subsequently listening to
Melvin Bragg's literary panel discuss Conrad's "Heart of
Darkness". The latter work is noted for "the horror, the
horror". Other works with this same effect on me include
Kafka's cockroachy "Metamorphosis", Voltaire's idiotic
"Candide", Woolfe's superficial "Mrs. Dalloway",
Dostoyevsky's psychotic "Crime and Punishment". Of
course Lord Jim is about a good man's flawed sense of
honor and the schadenfreudic biographer who disavows his
own responsibility in Jim's destruction.
I'm not requiring a 'happy ending' or
even that the protagonist survives the adventure. I want
a glimmer of hope, atonement, observer's enlightenment -
in other words, some means of making sense of the human
condition. I'm sure there are those who think that point
of view is irrational. Maybe so, but I don't see a
'Great' book as one that encourages a suicidal solution
- either in readers or in the author. Obsessing in the
futility of characters who find no resolution of their
own lives nor for humankind is born of a mental sickness
- either biological or self-induced. Unfortunately, the
modern world has been heavily influenced by these
self-centered and depressive perspectives.
Of course these authors had to write
what they were filled with, and perhaps the depressive
(or in Voltaire's case, the mocking) side of life
sourced their inspiration. Rather, I prefer approaches
that help people deal with life as it is, and snuff out
the narcissistic worldview - to alleviate suffering of
others instead of expanding our own. I don't know if
I'll ever tackle "The Trial", "To The Lighthouse",
"Nostromo" or "Brothers Karamazov", but I do know I have
a lot of other territory to cover before I do.
Happy Reading and pursue a Heart of
Light, even if it may be seeking Shambhala.
14-Aug-2006: For the beauty of the
earth, for the glory of the skies…
This past weekend, we
had a ‘philosophy’ party – a fairly regular occurrence
in our household. I think this one generated the most
distributed discussion that we’ve had in some time.
Reverend Vinnie put a discussion list together that has
us well occupied past midnight. We seek to balance
liberal and conservative viewpoints so that we end up at
least hearing a different perspective and really
appreciating opportunities where we can agree on
solutions even if our reasoning differs.
The first quest was
posed as each person arrived – Draw a picture of your
image of God. Talk about an opportunity for greater
understanding. Several folks used the concept – ‘God
can’t be drawn’ – which effectively manifested as a
blank page. Ironically, yet still congruent – both
conservative Christians and secular humanists adopted
this same image – spirit and nothingness used the same
representation (One person took it further – a blank
page folded as a paper airplane). For two who put pencil
to paper, a familial image was used – a favorite
grandfather and comforting father figure respectively.
My son drew ‘Master of Time and Space’ – a muscular
character adorned with a suite of timepieces. Dad
(Vince) characterized all kinds of people in a park
setting with animals,
I pondered how to
express ‘beyond everything’ and started with my
perception…what I perceive as transcendence despite the
gauzy mist of a temporal world. Immediately, I drew an
eye watching the sunset. Then I thought of my beloved
dome of the sky and the hidden wonders beyond that blue
- I added my rendition of planets and galaxies. Then I
recalled my wonder in that which is microscopic. I added
perspective lines and below the sunset I had cells and
DNA strands. Behind the eye, I added my thoughts –
chemical structures, musical notes, books. All of these
illustrate my wonder in this universe and what lies
beyond the known. Pictures didn’t quite complete it, so
I added these words:
Beyond What I See
More Than I Can Conceive
Greater Than My Fascination
Only Through Glimpses
Of What I Perceive
Do I Understand A Magnitude
Of Infinite Unknowables.
May you share in the wonder of this
universe and the blessings of loving kindness that is
within our power to spread.
23-Jun-2006: Where does the music come
As the summer kicks
off, my 10 year old is really getting into music - he
started playing my old guitar regularly and punching out
ideas on the keyboards. What's different about this
summer is that I like listening to him (The drum
sessions are a different story). He's not particularly
skilled at execution now, but definitely has an ear for
music. Parker was two years old when he started playing
on a small keyboard - along with solving puzzles, we
could guess he would have a talent for math. Recently,
I've noticed his voice is maturing and he can carry a
tune very well. So where did this music come from?
We like telling him
about his rock ancestry - Scotch-Irish relatives named
McCart and Linane. But these distant relations don't
point to his band becoming the new 'American' Fab Four
(or his attaining knighthood well before hitting '64').
Rather, I think there's a spark in him like most of us
that just needed some encouragement to start flowing.
There is always the
argument for genetics. I agree that Parker has an
advantage here. Dad is an accomplished guitarist and
musicologist (Don't get into a music trivia contest with
him... actually any trivia contest). My love of music
goes back deep into childhood. For me it started with
the children's choir at Ladue Chapel. Our music director
Dr. Frank Perkins loved to put together full length
programs. By the 4th grade, I was performing in the rock
opera Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat before I knew
what rock or opera were. Because of Frank, I had the
experience of performing in churches and synagogues
around St. Louis.
Frank also introduced
us to Noah, It's Cool in the Furnace (the
story of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach
and Abednego…who has a name like that?) and as we got
older, Handel's Messiah. This was something for a
kid who was painfully shy. Frank had me join the adult
choir in 9th grade - and I don't know how he ever got me
to do a duet with Brett Boal at this age but it
happened. In high school, our youth group was into music
- on Sunday evenings Nancy Hodge and I would sit and
sing most of the Christian youth standards plus some
John Denver during dinner break. Elise Johnson and I
wrote music for our youth service as well (I really miss
those two). School held some music experiences for me as
well, but I never had a personal advocate like Frank
Perkins. Thank you, Dr. Perkins!
I could also reference
my family as a source of my music affinities - My dad
loved singing a cappella starting in high school, and
also sang in earlier incarnations of Dr. Perkins adult
choir. My mom had some interest - because of her, we
always had a piano available and tuned even though none
of the kids had formal training. My sister played the
violin starting in grade school and loved voice as well.
She shared some of the choir and youth music experiences
with me. The later music director had a youth bell choir
and she was involved with that.
So genetics has some
influence in our music wellspring, but equally important
has been a facilitating environment. Parker (and Marie
and I) always had instruments and encouraging people
available... Vince has an inner drive that seems a
source unto himself, but I suspect Chris and his cousins
and Todd Rungren provided him similar music 'resources'.
There is something
beyond ourselves that comes through when we have our
music. I think music is really a manifestation of our
individual spirit. Maybe we can't make the music
ourselves, but I believe most folks live life to their
own personal soundtrack. I think that's why we had the
i-Pod revolution. It just naturally fits in the fabric
of our being.
Search of the Heroine
There is no shortage
of inspiring stories for those pursuing a hero’s
journey. At some point though, girls (and women) will
seek role models that align closely with their belief
and thought structure. Regardless of what this
post-feminist era teaches us of the roles of men and
women, we remain different biological constructs
The difficulty, even
when finding a strong female character in a heroic
encounter, is that the goddess role is emphasized rather
than an independent experience. This heroine is often
(and far too predictably) driven to fulfillment through
her male counterpart. This approach is especially true
in Austen’s characters of Elizabeth Bennet, Emma
Woodhouse and Anne Eliott; but also manifests to a
lesser degree in Scarlett O’Hara and Jean Auel’s Ayla.
Even Hermione Granger with her superior intellect is
ancillary to Harry Potter’s greater objective. Of
course, the persistent Disney Princess notion of
Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, et al, continues to distort
the female heroic journey.
For me, Meg Murry
O’Keefe of Madeleine L’Engle’s "Time Quartet" is the
literature character closest to my archetype. She still
finds her strength through Calvin O’Keefe – but more in
a true heroic cycle switch. Calvin’s love of literature
is yin to Meg’s yangish predilection for
math and science. He truly plays her supporting role,
while remaining that which she lives for.
Meg’s trials are used
to confront something bigger than herself – the battle
against universal "Nothingness." She and her brother
Calvin take on the metaphorical Echthroi and learn that
love is the human tool to defeat fear and egoism.
I appreciate the
deeper topics that Meg is asked to take on – almost
universally, the battle is not with the Echthroi but
within herself. She must overcome her own fears and
prejudices. In overcoming her selfish tendencies, the
evil is nullified – the tyrant topples. These stories
depict our perennial battles – not whether we will marry
our soul mates, but whether the human spirit can resist
annihilation at the hand of hate and self-interest.
I hope I can be like
Meg and learn to love in the face of fear and blind
hatred. This is the spiritual battle that every
individual must fight. Our whole universe is in the
balance. Will you give in to selfish impulses, or choose
to abandon ego and embrace a nobler vision for yourself
In lieu of a formal
blog entry, I am posting an essay on this site called
Mythic Language. I originally was writing a blog
entry in late February after being inspired by
Karen Armstrong's autobiography The Spiral
Staircase. I felt a great deal of
parallelism with her personal journey and
gathered some thoughts together. It took a few more
weeks (and some vacation time) before I finalized it and
I found the direct notes gleaned from her book were
edited out. Nonetheless, she was a catalyst for the
Mythic Language essay and hopefully this attribution
will encourage you to look into her collection of works
on World Religions and cultural anthropology.
29-Jan-2006: Inspiration – From
Which Way Cometh?
How does one find
meaning in their own unique existence? Does it erupt
happenstance while following the folly of the day? Is it
a more contrived occurrence – presented by a
well-meaning preacher, composer or lecturer whereby one
merely partakes of the offered fruit? Can someone make
plans to discover the underlying truth? Or must they
simply have faith and all will be bestowed upon them? If
one fails to have faith or outright rejects the
proffered notion, is the wonder of life barred from them
I think that each
person’s greatest gift is to seek a unique meaning in
life. If you live through someone else’s beliefs or seek
pleasures vicariously – ultimately you cannot realize
your own life. That isn’t to deny that your inspiration
may directly benefit from the discoveries of others or
from seemingly random circumstances. Indeed, part of
this hero’s journey is the joy of discovering what you
can give to others. However, until you begin
understanding your own ideas and talents, do you have
anything of substance to give? Our potentialities are
multitudinous – we are unlikely to discover all avenues
to the fullest, and yet the journey itself yields the
joy. Echoing a theme in the movie "What the Bleep Do We
Know"… How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?
Music and literature
can also trigger ideas or enhance understanding.
Learning itself can be a fire that drives us to find our
own passions. Yet other works may completely shut us
down. What student hasn’t nodded off at some time or
another during his academic career (and it wasn’t always
late night study sessions or parties at the root)? Some
literary works I truly relish, others I completely
abhor, still others fail to move me at all. I know that
Beethoven symphonies fire up my creativity, energy and
productivity while working, while other classical
composers distract or over-relax.
As a teenager, I
remember a specific experience that was precipitated by
reading Catherine Marshall’s novel Christy. I
later read many of her other works including A Man
Called Peter, a unique biography of her husband, but
none matched the spiritual impact of the first book. I
think that it spoke to me at that time because of my
contemporaneous experiences – the mystical presence that
Christy observed when ill, was closer to my experience
of God-presence than anything I heard in church or
observed in other religious contexts. Ironically, even
as I became more involved in church activities, my mind
and heart were preparing for a broader spiritual
experience than I would ever find in any religion of set
Perhaps red flags are
going up – the word ‘mystical’ induces strong reactions.
Don’t worry too much – I am strongly rooted in rational,
scientific thought. And yet I know that that the
physical world cannot provide answers to my most
important questions. You see, while electrical currents
can be observed routing through the brain, the thoughts
themselves cannot be independently verified. I know that
cognitive patterns permit complex linkages of various
image memories. But even that is just allowing for
filtering and representation of brain ‘facts’ collected
over time. What creates the ‘ah-ha’ moment that
constitutes innovation, love, inspiration, and
transcendence? While we may recognize the emotional
relationships to each of these, they are far more
complex than ‘feeling’. Matthew Alper even pursued the
concept in The God Part of the Brain – but his
conclusion deteriorated on his assumption that because
spiritual experience can be measured in the brain, it
must originate there. For him, there was no possible
answer beyond the physical world. For others, these
concepts marked the launch of proto-sciences called
neurotheology and evolutionary psychology.
individuals, it is in our nature to seek meaning –
perhaps for minor moments, perhaps in whole lifetimes or
even beyond. We can rest on rationality – but this
rationality falls apart at the moment of death. You see,
even when life departs from us, our bodies do not
immediately lose mass. The essential wonder is life
itself – it is in itself ethereal, a mist, to a large
extent unknowable – physically manifest yet transcendent
to the material world.
So, here I am, on the
cusp of rational thought and mystical being. Actually
this is a very rewarding place to be. I can observe the
absurdity of the daily news with some detachment – for
there will always be fools and politicians. Perhaps we
do move towards a majority who desires the end of the
world – these Armageddon rhythms exhaust me. If so, I
shall rest in the fact that my carbon, nitrogen and
hydrogen will go on forever and may be dedicated to a
more intelligent life in a fleeting billion years –
after our sun dies and a new one is born. Similarly my
life essence shall rest in the spiritual realm beyond
time and space – that mystical place where I have
already been for that eternal moment.
I have been holding
back, waiting for inspiration in this new year, but
sometimes you just have to sit down and start writing.
You never know what may flow from pen to paper (or
keyboard to file).
Mythological Journey – My Initiation
According to Joseph
Campbell's Hero Cycle, the initiation to the
hero's journey is foretold by a messenger or guide,
often providing talismans or esoteric knowledge. It is
not unusual, in a real-life journey, for a teenager to
encounter messengers in the guise of teachers. At least,
that was true for my personal narrative. In the tapestry
of teachers who have impacted my life, there are two
standouts that were my dynamic duo in high school - true
"Pillars of Parkway" – Bettie Brakebill and Melba "Jimi"
James. I cannot separate or elevate either as my "best
teacher" because together they represent my yin and
In 10th grade, I took
Biology - what I consider my first real science course
under the tutelage of Dr. James. Prior to this point, I
found science boring - a series of short unrelated
modules looking at onion skins under the microscope or
marble velocity changes when hitting an immovable
object. There was no coherence. In biology, I started to
see scientific relationships beyond the individual unit
material - later I learned that the divisions between
chemistry, biology and physics are arbitrary and
somewhat artificial lines - but at this time, I had
merely a glimpse. More importantly, I couldn't get
enough of all the sciences and wanted to learn as much
as possible. The next year, I took Chemistry, Human
Anatomy and Physiology (with Dr. James), and Medical
Science. The following year, I took Physics and AP
Biology – the latter again with Dr. James. During this
period, I formulated a yearning for medical science, and
sought to master math and all sciences. I remember
drawing 3-D cellular structures intermixed with chemical
formulas - e.g., ribosomes transcribing DNA strands and
mitochondria powerhouses producing ATP. I don't think
that aspect of science has changed... yet? Of course,
this was after taking Ms. Ratcliff’s near-Honors
chemistry class my junior year. That scientific
fascination continued into my Chemical
Engineering/Pre-Med undergraduate curriculum - and even
to a brief graduate effort in Fermentation
Dr. James was also
then the director of the St. Louis Science Fair, and
encouraged each of her students to participate. I
entered in the Physics division and remember the night
of the awards ceremony. I was sitting in the bleachers
next to Martha Papay who had an entry in the Chemistry
division. We both took turns accepting awards from Dr.
James – for someone as shy as I was back then, I was the
reddest face in Queeny Park that night. Martha
ultimately trumped everyone by winning top prize – she
went on to win the International Science Fair, and went
to Sweden to attend the Nobel awards. Oh well – those
memories still fire up my competitive spirit (thanks,
Martha!). Dr. James was a clear participant in that
overwhelming memory. Dr. James also attended the
ceremonial dinner with me for the award from SWE
(Society of Women’s Engineers) conferred that evening.
But best of all, I took a trip to Dearborn, Michigan –
Henry Ford Museum with two other winners hosted by Union
Electric. This was my first plane trip and my first
long-distance trip without anyone familiar. Through the
open doors of mystery… and into the belly of the whale –
the unknown realm of adulthood.
Dr. James instilled in
me the challenge of scientific endeavors and a desire to
pursue excellence that still resonates with me in
At the same time this
budding scientist was emerging, up a flight or two in
the same building, Miz Brakebill was challenging the
other side of my brain by immersing me in the world of
great books. I have noted that impact in an earlier
journal entry called ‘The Great Books’. I also shared my
writings and enjoyed receiving her comments on those
A bit ironically, each
of these teachers challenged my thinking in the realm of
the others role. It was in Dr. James' classes that I
first recognized the organization and preparation that a
well-delivered lecture requires – observing her
referencing of detailed notes to ensure the topic was
fully covered. Mrs. Brakebill started counseling my
senior year, and she was my primary consultant for
defining a career path. Noting my accomplishments at the
Science Fair, she challenged me to investigate
engineering as a career path. So, ultimately they worked
in concert although I doubt in consultation.
In more than one
sense, because of Mrs. Brakebill and Dr. James, I
achieved a balance between the poet and the scientist
both resident in my psyche. That is perhaps… Realist
with a sense of wonder? Source of creativity grounded in
logic? Challenger of conventional wisdom and memetic
programming? Pursuer of a higher truth? One could
attribute each of these to my characterization.
sparkles with the contributions of hundreds of students,
teachers and acquaintances, but these two teachers are
more than noteworthy. I would not be the person I am
today without their contributions to my academic and
personal perspective. My hope for each of you is the
blessing of such messengers – not to imitate, but to
independently urge you on towards your unique
herostory – a personal narrative sui generis.
October - a time that is rapidly becoming a metaphor for
my stage in life (although I am ever optimistic that it
is still yet July). At work, a cycle is repeating itself
as a diversion - Powerball has now exceeded $200M. There
is a group pool representing unfulfilled wishes and
potentialities. If the dream ever manifests itself, I
think the company will be in dire straits - nearly the
entire IT department would walk given $4-5 million in
gives rise the question - what would you do, given
comfortable resources without time obligation? Not how
you would spend the money, but what would you do? How
would you spend your time? What would you do with
truthful response reflects the character development and
values of the person receiving the boon. Consider the
question and commit your answers in writing. Then
analyze your response. Do your responses reflect your
life goals? Does the list identify what truly makes you
happy? Or does it merely echo what you think you should
list does reflect opportunities that light a fire in
your heart - are these opportunities you are already
pursuing albeit never having enough time? If you'd like
space in your life to pursue these goals, do you really
need to wait until the proverbial ship rolls in? Or can
you make these goals a way of life regardless of
encourage you to pursue this "what-if" exercise - if
nothing else, it's a pleasant diversion in your day. But
if it actually directs you to your true bliss - it could
be the most important step of a lifetime.
take it further, I encourage you build a life-framework
towards accomplishing these life goals - I recommend a
book "Get It All Done and Still Be Human: A Personal
Time-Management Workshop" by Tony and Robbie Fanning -
my favorite time management reference book of all
time (including Hyrum Smith and 7 Habits). We have foggy
expectations for our lives, and this book has techniques
to bring the important and meaningful in focus.
answer? That's for another entry. But you can bet the
goals are specific, targeted and ever-evolving. So I'll
know precisely what to do when my personal 'Powerball'
to be a Modern Day Hero
turned 10 this weekend. Every year, near his birthday,
we have planned a get-together with boys his age -
usually with an anime theme (alternatively or combined
Pokemon, DBZ and Yu-gi-oh) - although last year included
his friend Kriea with a Renaissance theme. This year,
the plan was similar. After briefly flirting with the
idea of a dance party, he revised the plan as a
Pokemon/Yu-gi-oh card party. His best friend Mack's
birthday is the day after, precipitating a second
year the party did not take place. Neither did Mack's.
Our son messed up - he ventured to lie a grownup-sized
Grounding-sized lie. Karmic-proportioned lie. He
recognized that he deserved punishment - in fact, he
suggested grounding and canceling the birthday party.
What he didn't reckon was Mack postponing his party.
Mack didn't want a party without Parker.
there are no modern-day heroes?
choice we make can create positive and negative effects
for ourselves and others. We are so inter-twined that
optimizing these choices is very difficult. By
anticipating the effects of our choices on others, we
become less slaves of fate and more masters of our own
parents, our best choices are to choose those
disciplines to move our children closer to
self-discipline. Sometimes, good examples of
self-sacrifice can move them even faster.
you consider in your last decision?
2-Aug-2005: What's the blues got to do with it?
morning, I was all out of audiobooks for my ride to the
'northern plains'. I finished 'Silas Marner' and need to
hit the library for my next fix. BTW, I really loved
this last one - Eppie refused to give up her adoptive
father when her natural father finally spilled
the beans to his wife - of course that's not the real
suspense at the end of this 18 year mystery. And it had
sex (circa 1860's), drugs (with due recompense) and rock
my radio for something suitable as I had not brought my
iPod for the ride. I came across KKFI Blues morning
broadcast and truly enjoyed the mix of local and
national blues talent. The only ads were for their
upcoming sponsored blues festival and even these were
relatively infrequent. It was like a 'Shuffle' blues
playlist with music I don't own. Very nice hour -
unfortunately, they don't broadcast this afternoon for
the ride home.
do the Blues have to do with mythology? As I read it,
the purpose is the same. The principle of blues music is
catharsis for suffering in the world. By recognizing the
inevitability of that suffering, we can move beyond it
to experience the miracles and beauty despite our
no doubt that suffering is a part of the human
experience - There is no philosopher's stone that can
stop death in it's tracks. Of course, that doesn't stop
us from hoping, dreaming and loving. In coming to the
realization that we can't stop the inevitability of life
(which is death), we mature into the recognition that
each moment of every life is priceless.
Unhappily, many never complete that maturation process
and we all must deal with the karmic result.
a metaphor for life. Mythology is a metaphor for life...
Harry’s Newest Adventure
So much to do – I
didn’t get Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince until
4PM on Saturday (Amazon delivery) and finished the book
last night before fixing dinner after work – as usual,
the ending was tremendously suspenseful.
I know I will be
updating Meeting with the Goddess and Atonement with the
Father – you see… the major death had to occur in the
sequence of events. I just wasn’t sure if Harry’s
independence would start in Book 6 or Book 7, and so
hesitated developing this aspect of the myth analysis.
Without going further,
I leave you with a favorite quote on each of us
following the hero’s path – Joe himself reads this
illuminating passage as an introduction to The Hero’s
Adventure episode of the PBS Power of Myth series.
heroes of all time have gone before us; the
labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to
follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we
had thought to find an abomination, we shall
find a god; where we had thought to slay
another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had
thought to travel outward, we shall come to the
center of our own existence; where we had
thought to be alone, we shall be with all the
world." – Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a
Thousand Faces (http://www.jcf.org)
This series is a
modern world mythology in every sense.
Stuff of Dreams
This past week, our
family has been watching videos of Carl Gustav Jung
taken late in his life (He died very near the time I was
born – truth comes out…) and on the subsequent research
pursued by the Jung Institute. Jung was a psychiatrist
that gained fame in several areas of his professional
study – he defined the basis for most personality tests
used today. Anyone who has taken a Myers-Briggs test or
similar would be familiar with the terminology crafted
by Jung – e.g.,
He directed one of his patients to seek recovery from
alcoholism in spiritual reconciliation. This patient’s
success was an inspiration to Bob Smith and Bill Wilson
in the forming of Alcoholics Anonymous - from which
sprang many modern-day 12-step self-help programs. Jung
was one of the first to associate psychological needs
with mythological narratives – a linkage of spirituality
with a physical human need.
But more generally,
Carl Jung is known for his analysis of dreams and
hypothesis of the collective unconscious. Dreams are a
means, in psychological terms, for our personal
unconscious to deliver messages, in chunks we can
handle, to conscious thought. These dreams are comprised
of "little dreams" that help us work through personal
problems, and of "big dreams" that invoke symbolism that
transcends cultural limitations, and introduces us to
the lexicon of the human psyche.
It is from Jung that
Joseph Campbell learned how to interpret myths through
application of Jungian archetypes. Jung identified the
hero archetype itself. So, if you can’t tell by the
intro to this entry, I find Carl Jung fascinating. The
videos show him traveling the world, interviewing
diverse and isolated populations about their dreams. Of
note were interviews with African tribesman and Taos
Pueblo Indians who described how Jung honored them with
his attentiveness and continued friendship. He was truly
interested in the relationships between all people –
that in some way, we all are connected.
I had what I think was
a little dream last night, but I have smiled several
times today in remembrance. I dreamt I overslept – a
typical dream of mine tied to a most definite personal
reality. But this time, I was back in my childhood home
as an adult. I stood in front of a mirror getting ready
for work, brushing my teeth and putting earrings on, and
kept glancing at my watch. I was talking to my mother
and my grandmother as I prepared. Every time I looked at
the watch, I lost great amounts of time so that instead
of 7 AM, it was after 10 AM and I was ready to give up
on getting to work. I paused and looked directly at my
grandmother, saying "you know I’ve missed you", and she
answered "Oh, honey, I know you have", expressed such
joy and inner sparkle and gave me a hug so intense and
welcome I can’t express. I woke up shortly after, about
4AM and had to re-orient my reality…my grandmother
passed away over five years ago.
remember staying up late with her the night
100th birthday party, with her telling me
stories about the various pictures I was arranging. Her
eyes were lit up like the mischievous 20-year-old
telling of the bathtub gin during prohibition and how
they would flirt with boys in cars.
She would talk of
parties and friends, and I lived her memory again. That
was last night and she truly pulled me out of time and
space to say hello. I’m sure Carl would have something
more eloquent to say, but I truly enjoyed being with my
best friend still.
9-Jul-2005: The Great
As mentioned in prior
entries, I am in the midst of my own renaissance. In
pursuing, or rather re-pursuing, literature, philosophy,
music and art, I am reminded of my first introduction to
the great books…
It was my junior year
in high school, taking the class "Recurring Themes of
American Literature". Bettie Brakebill navigated our way
through Salinger, Hemingway, Nathaniel Hawthorne and
Arthur Miller… this was my first serious evaluation of
American authors and their noted works. She taught me
the essence of the essay – a technique further crafted
the following year where I had to write impromptu 1-hour
analyses on more ‘great works’ in the appropriately
named class ‘Challenge English’. That was Dr. Page’s
lesser legacy. By my junior year, I was already a
poet/lyricist, but Bettie B. was the first adult
with whom I shared my works and ideas. Besides that
endearment, she challenged me to think about my loved
books in new light – to consider the larger ideas that
great works pursue.
In her southern drawl,
with bright eyes and lively smile, she would direct the
question to each student as needed for effect: Now,
Lynne…Are you well read?
That statement has
multiple meanings. To the sixteen-year old, it meant I
better be up on the material and ready for the class
discussion. Now, it means so much more.
Around age 15, I hit
my "Age of Reason". I began to think about my own
spirituality, the progression of ideas and the
inter-relatedness of many disciplines. I longed to be
doctor, minister and research scientist – and was
heavily influenced by both "Miz" Brakebill and my
biology teacher Dr. Melba James. I admired both these
ladies, and recognized their influence on my thinking
immediately. These were my ‘break-through’ teachers, not
to mention academic role models.
In the literature
realm, I imagined the lists of books I wanted to read,
and those that I had already pursued. My English folder
had doodles of stacks of books with microscopic titles
written on the spines – mostly of books I wanted to read
in my parents collection, but I would gradually fill in
blank spines with those we read in class or new ones I
I’m not quite sure why
I was interested in keeping some type of inventory or
progress report on those books, but I’ve always had a
queue of 5-10 in the wings (at least 3 in-progress) –
even during my business cult period. Lately, I have
found myself drawn back to the inventories and spent
several hours rebuilding my book "database". At this
point, I think I am worried that I’ll miss important
ideas that will help me piece together this mystery of
life. I have new tools to evaluate the books I have
read, and take forward to the as-yet-undiscovered ones.
Indeed, I do find recurring themes in apparently
disparate works and unexpected places. I believe that I
am on the cusp of recognizing human wisdom (although
still far from possessing the genuine article).
I know Bettie B. tried
to awaken me to this wisdom back then. I just need to
remember the lessons more fully now.
Confessions of a "would-be" Writer
I am acutely aware of
my sparse updates to this blog for the last three
months. This knowledge is source of guilt – I began this
blog for three reasons:
To put a personal
slant on how mythological archetypes influence our
To discipline my
writing and allow for psychological time to develop
To provide a
legacy for my son to understand how mom thinks –
something I wish I had more to draw on from my mom,
grandmothers, aunts and cherished family friends.
thoughts on my updates to the Harry Potter analysis also
run guilty. I was inspired to this analysis when Order
of the Phoenix was released two years ago. In two weeks,
Jo Rowling will release her next installment – how could
I be so delinquent, that a mere analysis could take
longer? I take solace in knowing that my essays cannot
really be completed until the series itself is written.
But that doesn’t stop the guilt of the half-written
updates cluttering my desk and hard-drive.
The guilt, I’m afraid,
doesn’t stop there. I also have written partial analyses
on three movies (Kingdom of Heaven, What the Bleep,
Passion of the Christ); I have toyed with heroic
thoughts on Lord of the Rings, Robinson Crusoe, and the
biographies of James Joyce, Mozart and Beethoven.
Perhaps the title of this blog should be Tales of the
So, why the angst –
from one who writes of mellow thoughts and meditation?
In mid-April, I made a work transition – moving from 1
company/1 project to 2 companies/4 projects across the
Kansas City metro. Add heavy road construction and heavy
traffic and suddenly I lose my critical meditation time.
For me, the flow of ideas is heavily dependent on my
ability to quiet my thoughts – and this has been a
difficult state to attain.
In the same timeframe,
I decided to plan our first real vacation in three years
(yes ‘three’ is an incidental theme of this blog). My
plan was to share with my family several places that
brighten my childhood memories. I also naively believed
I might get some writing in. We departed June 18th
for Colorado Springs. My mind finally cleared last
Wednesday once I accepted that we couldn’t see
everything I hoped. This wonderful state lasted until
Monday morning when I succumbed to chaos. This morning,
I am working from home – drinking my favorite fresh
brewed coffee blend and taking some time before settling
in on work tasks to write this entry. So this is an
indulgent entry – heavy on catharsis of the above guilty
Now to share some
favorite ‘still’ moments from the trip:
Garden of the Gods (Aesthetic Arrest)
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (Comic Relief is
Pikes Peak Summit
22-Apr-2005: What’s on your playlist
A couple months ago,
my gadget-loving husband acquired our family’s first
i-Pod – the (then) new Shuffle. I patiently listened
to his accounting of features, cost-benefit analyses
against other prominent mp3 players, and how the movie
Forrest Gump has been re-established as a
classic…after all, no one would get the Apple references
if the company was no longer viable.
Well, I was quite
familiar with mp3’s, but not really interested in
hauling one around – I was content with playing them on
my computer or assembling personal mixes to burn to CD.
I also hate "things in my ears" – most headphones and
earbuds are unbearable for me. But, I had to listen to
the Shuffle on my treadmill workout just to appease
Vince’s enthusiasm. Not only did I realize I wanted one
of these players, but I realized I HAD to have one of my
own. Vince’s musical tastes are admirable and he had
some cool podcasts loaded, but I required at least some
dose of my personal favorites. That’s how we ended up
with his/her 1Gb Shuffles for Valentines Day. I also
received some adjustable premium earbuds that are
tolerable in the smallest size available.
Now, I spend time
converting old CD’s and pouring over playlist options to
enjoy for the next week. I’m actually a little irritated
at the time it takes making those decisions (I’ll need
to up my hard-drive soon)– but the upside is that I’m
remembering my love of music (not to mention new
opportunities for mythology, science and philosophy
CD’s/podcasts). That decision actually represents music
as an underlying driver for my life – in addition to
So why have these key
life elements been banished to the subconscious in
deference to other aspects of daily living? Our current
world focuses on so many choices regarding every aspect
of life. It is so easy to rely on automatic choices
based on our visceral or emotional response – and it’s
hard to turn this pattern off. Even when we have
opportunity to have a real impact on the quality of our
own life, we often abdicate to this automatic response
rather than taking the time to rationally think about
what needs to be done.
So in recognizing this
tendency, can we interrupt it? Can we identify that many
of these automatic decisions aren’t even worth our time?
Picking which brand of cereal to eat or which
commercial-ridden radio station to listen to top my list
of non-decisions. Rather, for my family’s health, I’ll
pick whichever fruits and vegetables look freshest and
ready-to-eat. Skip the processed food aisles entirely –
90% of it still has trans-fat anyway and you know that’s
killing us. Dig out my buried CD’s and rip only my
favorite songs. Get the classics on audio disc and
refresh my inquisitive streak. Turn off the TV and look
at my family. Learn who they are and what they are
becoming. Eliminate the junk and seek out the diamonds.
Family, art, music,
literature, health – if these things are truly the
center of my being – they certainly deserve some
dedicated time in my life each week… and definitely not
in automatic response mode. This is the life I wish to
live – so now it’s time to play it.
Memo to file – Make a conscious
decision to put these on my playlist every day.
31-Mar-2005: Is it ever really over?
Our family has
a couple of guinea pigs – Squeaker and Speedy. This
morning, as is too often the case, our son’s oversight
left "the girls" without food or water. Avoiding any
accusation of inhumane treatment, my husband and I take
care of their needs immediately. We could be prosecuted
for doing otherwise. Not that either one of us could
stand to see them go longer than a few hours of thirst
or hunger. You see, these little animals, despite
limited mental capacity and no speech, nonetheless
communicate with us. We can sense their needs,
perturbation, affection, and even their desires when
they crave a carrot or some juicy lettuce.
Some may argue that
guinea pigs could feed themselves on vegetation, but
they are domesticated and would not survive long in a
world of dogs, cats and birds (much less a
non-equatorial climate). Truly, they are fully dependent
on us for their bodily needs, yet, we appreciate their
companionship even when the conversation is one-sided.
… In the last few
years, several family members and friends have been
diagnosed with advanced cancer – pancreatic, prostrate,
colon and breast cancer. Two most forward in my mind
today were my mom’s best friend and my father. Carolyn
had a sustained fight with pancreatic cancer and finally
chose quality of life over an extended fight in a
weakened and dependent state. Dad chose not to go the
route of surgery for his colon cancer because he (and
mom) thought the recovery would be difficult. He planned
to take the non-surgical route as far as he could. Dad
was taken unexpectedly early, likely as an adverse
outcome of his treatments. In both Carolyn’s and Dad’s
cases, they had opportunity to decide several factors in
how they wanted to leave this plane.
In an enlightened
society, perhaps we could step back and see why the law
moved where it did over the last two decades in
decisions on the "Right to Die" without so much vitriol.
Perhaps in an
enlightened society, we could apply a balancing test
where in the absence of pain, suffering, and clear
documentation of an individual’s intent, such that a
"Right to Live" is equally valued.
Perhaps in an
enlightened society, individuals experiencing extreme
pain and suffering could have greater directives in how
their final days are closed.
Perhaps, in an
enlightened world, humans could be afforded the same
level of compassion as our animals receive.
And perhaps in an
enlightened world, many of us could evaluate the
difficult choices before we are thrown into the
emotional fray and protect ourselves by documenting
Regardless of where
your thoughts lie in the events unfolding today…
For Terri Schiavo – "It is done."
21-Mar-2005: California Dreaming
My son and I went to a
school auction together - there was a 70's disco dance
for the kids, and my son went all out on his costume.
I'm still not sure where he found those crazy
sunglasses, and I start worrying when he talks about his
plans for a
band (he's 9).
He has some
stereotypical perspectives of the 70's, but at least
Goin' to California isn't in his lexicon...yet.
is on my mind after watching the Mamas
and the Papas special on PBS. Driving to work this
morning, listening to a meditative Chris Spheeris CD, I
reminisced about my hopes of California in the 70's.
That was back in high school, when hopes of freedom ran
rampant in my imagination. The California frame of mind
was living in the outdoors, being healthy, finding the
‘perfect’ job and ultimately seeking a balance of Mind
and Soul. And that’s where we all wanted to be – in the
thick of Life.
In the interim, I must
say I’ve visited California many times – there are a lot
of beautiful coastal areas and there’s definitely a
beach lifestyle that college kids crave. But in many
ways, there’s not a whole lot of difference. One can
still get caught following someone else’s vision, never
finding their own. They can find their bliss in Esalen,
Santa Barbara or Monterey…or find disappointment as
there is nothing stopping me from
pursuing the outdoors, living healthy, loving life -
whatever it brings, and merging the transcendent with
everyday occurrence. See the wonder of existence in
contemplating the cosmos…Life is not retail - Location
ultimately doesn’t matter. Rather what matters is your
readiness and receptiveness for the wonder of ‘being’.
is kind of like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz -
It was there all along.
3-Mar-2005: The Global Flyer has landed…
completed his world circuit in Salina today. Perhaps it
is my predilection to celebrate the good things
happening in Kansas (homebase for MythicHero.com)... but
I think it is of larger note to those seeking the path
of a modern day hero. This is quite literally a
framework for new world mythology.
Stretching the ability
of both human engineering and endurance is an age-old
concept in mythology - the Athenian Daedalus first built
the complex labyrinth to contain the Minotaur - monster
born of Crete's Queen Pasiphaë and Poseidon's bull. But
King Minos was enraged when Daedalus helped Ariadne and
Theseus escape the monster and Minos himself. He
subsequently trapped Daedalus in the device of his own
making along with son Icarus. Daedalus then fashioned
wings for he and his son to take flight to Sicily.
Unfortunately, like Minos and Pasiphaë in the use of
Daedalian inventions, Icarus too ignores better judgment
and flies too close to the sun - melting the wings and
falling to his death. Daedalus carries on despite
adversity and finds his freedom.
What is the difference
with Steve Fossett and the Global Flyer that models a
modern day Daedalus into a world myth rather than a
regional or tribal myth? First, the scope is no longer
limited to an island or peninsula in the Mediterranean,
but makes an authentic global cross-section. Technology
is finessed – as is tactical readiness. In contrast,
Icarus was not prepared for the flight and permitted
emotions to overtake the true objective - successful
escape from Crete.
A second facet of
world myth is accessibility or general knowledge of the
story. From this author’s perspective, the regional
nature of this particular story clouds the broader
appeal. However, based on the Virgin Atlantic website,
BBC and national coverage – it seems that many people
outside the Midwest are aware and interested in this
Finally, existence of
a universal idea, which unifies people of many
backgrounds, is the central element needed. Even this
has multiple dimensions in this story – in the simplest
sense: Man against Nature; Nature against Man; Mind
conquers Body. But greater is the integration of many
forces – international and generational – to bring the
event to heroic conclusion.
The journey had its
share of anxious moments – unaccountable fuel loss on
takeoff jeopardized the entire mission. Sustained time
aboard with limited movement and sleep required
endurance –Juxtaposition of the human figure riding
giant fuel tanks also leaves an ominous impression. The
Road of Trials preceded the actual journey -
preparations of the aircraft, mission control, flight
plans – all these comprised elements for success.
Of course, an apparent
contrast is that the original Daedalus was willing to
forego morality for the opportunity to build his
inventions - he paid a heavy price for this
compromise...first his exile, then creation of a monster
feeding on others, then further imprisonment, and
finally his son's demise. What sorrow was reaped at the
expense of virtue.
Rather than writing of
the futility of men's desires in the Greek story, an
updated tale is needed for this modern writing. Despite
temptations and sorrow, opportunities have arisen from
new technologies, social interactions, cross-culturalism
which provide a backdrop for commonly shared stories.
The Global Flyer - a modern mythology based in fact - is
but one possible manifestation of the story. However, it
doesn't take a unique plane and millions in investment
to make a hero...
What opportunities do
we have on a daily basis to live this same story? Where
will your personal myth-making take you?
Spring is in the air
smell of thawing soil – just begging to be turned over
for new planting. Spikes of green forecast daffodils,
tulips and hyacinths soon to bring the sweetest
fragrance I can fathom. Such is the promise of this
spring...and every spring – mythic in so many aspects.
Is it the
joy of Demeter at the return of her daughter Persephone
from the House of Hades? Or that the winter of our souls
is stirred with the promise of reawakened love? Is it a
reflection of pagan joy in the spring equinox that
rebalances the forces of light and darkness? Is it the
beauty and inspiration of the resurrection – through
Easter or nature itself? Or is it in the light-hearted
humor of Peter Cottontail asserting his adolescence in a
popular guise of the springtime bunny?
May your anticipation of
spring be commensurate with the potential of a joyful
Les affaires de coeur
Mid-February offers us a time to reflect on that virtue
of the heart chakra (Anahata) – center of universal
love, unity and devotion.
point in late winter, I find many forces act upon the
human body...it’s a time of tax preparation while March
Madness quickly approaches (a big event in Kansas).
School events, homework reminders, preparing for spring
break activities, Dr. appointments…so many thoughts and
mind-clutter accumulating. I find my short-term memory
is fleeting in the midst of this stress.
like these prompt a desire to borrow Albus Dumbledore’s
‘Pensieve’ to swirl my thoughts and make connections.
For those unfamiliar with the Hogwart’s Headmaster of
the Harry Potter Series, Professor Dumbledore is a
powerful wizard who imparts wisdom to the adolescent
Harry. He possesses a stone basin called a Pensieve in
which he unloads extra thoughts to sort through and
mostly Muggle, I do not have this magical tool at my
disposal. But I do have another tool that accomplishes
the same objective. I meditate to levitate.
myself time to quiet my mind and observe the thoughts
rushing by is often my only key to sanity. Meditation
permits me to move my mind to a place of concentration
and clarity. Experiences beyond stress reduction include
alertness to quality of life and spiritual unity of
consciousness. By releasing artificial bindings that
weigh heavily on the mind, a mental levitation is
achieved. And in this elevated state, the meaning of
unconditional love is recognized.
Question of Art —or—
Art of the Question
thought-string originated with James Joyce and his
definition of proper art. Joyce contrasts a universal
conception of art against a dualistic perception of art.
The latter yields an emotional spectrum of desire to
repulsion, or a spectrum of pornography to didactics.
However, universal art — one of aesthetic stasis
— induces arrest of the mind moving neither a desire to
possess, nor a rejection of the artist’s intent.
Proper Art evokes a state of being. Which leads to
Can any given piece of
work achieve a universal response in observation?
It seems that across
humankind, a given piece of art may hold great meaning
to one, but is of no value to another. Or, my cousin may
have a so-called enlightened moment in contemplating the
work, while my friend wants to buy the work solely for
the popularity of the artist. In other words,
are perceptions of all art relative and never
I don’t intend to
imply I am a moral relativist — whatever that label
means. I actually believe there are universal principles
of justice, wisdom, love and virtue. But like Plato with
his ill-fated Forms, I’d like to re-ignite
rational evaluation of these principles. The premise is
that The Republic cannot survive in absence of a
virtuous and rational populace. The Athens of Socrates
eventually fell — so, are we slated for the same fate?
To pursue a dualistic
approach to life creates great stress for "we"
individuals — We can see the modern conflict of politics
in the partisan structure — Democrats and Republicans
are 90% the same but oh, that 10% creates enemies for
life. Dualism is also reflected in our correlation of
good with the extent to which we agree and of
evil to which one disagrees. This approach to
dividing reality into two’s (otherwise known as
dichotomous thinking) results in making enemies with
the "other side," and is a futile means toward peaceable
coexistence. (For further discussion of dichotomous
thinking, see an
Essay on Integral Thinking.)
So how does one get to
the monist perspective of art or virtue? Is this
merely an arrogant stance in an ever fractionate world?
At what point can one perceive an order to the universe
that permits such an attitude?
As a prerequisite to
an ethical framework, a guiding philosophy must be
established to form the root of the evaluation. In this
sense, asserting varying philosophies will result in a
In these times, is
it possible to formulate a framework to even discuss
virtuousness, righteousness, or morality? Do our
differences merely distill down to cultural influences
and an inability to accept alternative worldviews?
Conversely, do we subdue individual belief systems for
the tyranny of a universal but widely repudiated system?
(Such were the grounds for the American colonies to
break the grip of the King of England and a universal
Anglican Church). Without a unifying philosophy, are
we consigned to a relativistic world where words, ideas,
and beauty fail to have distinct meaning?
that there is a basis for virtue — and yet this basis
rested in the pantheon of Greek gods… He maintained that
the questions of beauty, justice, and virtue were worth
the effort to dissect (disassemble) and understand. Can
we infer, regardless of historical religious backdrop,
that these questions are worth revisiting in modern
linguistic, philosophical and spiritual context?
Framework then becomes
the formulation of the question, rather than the
establishment of any definitive answer. Pursuit of this
practice may be extremely frustrating for some, however
the Socratic adage — I know nothing — in this
realm can be restated as follows:
While I cannot conclude any
answer ventured — as long as I am asking
questions, I assert my vitality…my passion…my
life. The quality of these questions will
continue to amplify the sublimity of life — the
transcendent art of living.
These are lofty goals
in context of a four-generation lifetime. But
relatively speaking… worth every minute!
This week was
noteworthy for a favorite author of mine – her third
child Mackenzie was born last Sunday and her name on the
news links by mid-day Tuesday. Jo Rowling is far more
transformational in my life beyond the ordinary fandom
of a series of popular children’s books converted to
To really go into the
nature of her importance, I must travel back to my
childhood (one that admittedly predates Rowlings’ own).
I was a bookish girl – not really athletic or musical
until high school – and loved all school-related topics.
Even then, I had difficulty picking a favorite subject
because I loved learning about everything.
Early on, I was
unexceptional on grades – it took a few years of report
cards for me to learn that I must regurgitate the
teacher’s ideas to do really well in school. By
seventh grade or so, I had that down – I was generally
in the top 5% of my class for the rest of my secondary
It was in this time
frame also, that I began to excel at math and science. I
loved literature – something especially enjoyed over the
summer months, but the hard sciences were my realm. My
academic destiny was thus charted. I relished the mostly
20th century authors pursued in American Literature and
Honors English classes; and I finally picked up the art
of the 40-minute thesis about half-way through my senior
year, bumping my grade from a ‘B-’ average to an ‘H-’.
But this was just a segue to my Engineering curricula
starting the next fall. I placed out of all liberal arts
credits except Speech (yuck!), and elective coursework
was relegated to Microbiology and other Pre-Med
requirements – my vacation(!) topics from a rigorous
course of study.
During my college
years, I wrote some poems and letters as a sidebar to
the Chemical Engineering program, decided not to take
the MCAT and started looking for job opportunities. I
went to work first in Food Technology, moving shortly
thereafter to Information Technology (IT) in the
pharmaceutical industry. Over time, I became an expert
in laboratory computer applications and FDA validation
What’s the point of
this (for those of you who have stuck with me)? Over the
course of twenty-odd years, my exposure to literature
dwindled to reading technical journals, programming
guides and management treatises.
In 2000, my sister
gave me a gift certificate for B. Dalton’s bookstores. I
decided I was tired of Blanchard and Peters books – I
didn’t like the selection of Oracle books (database
rather than Delphinic) and I was frustrated. My gaze
fell on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and
I thought – I’m curious… Goblet of Fire had just
been released with great "fanfare" so I was piqued. I
purchased the first two paperback volumes for an ‘easy’
read over the weekend. By the next weekend, I had read
all four – 1500+ pages. My mind was in motion – there
was so much more here, and so many hooks to other
literature. My voraciousness for reading was reawakened!
In the absence of more
Harry Potter books, I turned to other literature and
started consuming again – just for fun.
About this time, my
husband was directed to Joseph Campbell by Arvind
Khetia, our very wise friend, – we started watching the
PBS series Power of Myth as a result. Connections
started growing fast and furious – we built on each
other’s discoveries. Casual references to the hero
infiltrated family discussions. Our son was nearly five
and was well into a spectrum of heroes including
"Parkman" (his own alter ego) and a conflation of Tiny
Tiger/Crash Bandicoot – he could tell us stories at
great length and we enjoyed them greatly.
In 2003, I started
formalizing my analyses by writing them down – where
else to start but with Harry – since Order of the
Phoenix had been published. That was the
underpinning for MythicHero.com.
In unfolding the works
of both Rowling and Campbell, I encountered a world of
mythology, psychology and philosophy previously
With each referenced
work, additional avenues were revealed as new layers of
an inverted onion - rather than distilling down to a
final center, the possibilities were growing
exponentially. Plato, Jung, Arabian Nights,
Bhagavad-Gita, Victor Hugo, Parzival, Locke,
Osiris, Alice in Wonderland -- well, the latter
is me. I never realized the chasm of my classical
education. Here I was, educated in top public schools in
latter-day 20th Century, during an age of Information
and Technology that was stunning. How could anyone born
in the 12th Century or 18th Century be better educated
than I...There was an age of enlightenment in which John
Adams and Thomas Jefferson were acutely immersed and to
which I was woefully blind.
So, Ms. Rowling and
Mr. Campbell - thank you for ‘Educating Milum’ or truly
launching the re-education of (Lynne) Milum. I am
forever indebted to you for reawakening my path of bliss
- this wonderful world of ideas that is overflowing...
that is my age of enlightenment.
24-Jan-2005: Who is this stranger, Death?
Johnny Carson’s death
was deeply felt in our household. We remember his shows
as though they were played last week. Bette Midler
singing to and with Johnny – those excerpts over the air
this morning still bring me to tears – perhaps because
that farewell to Johnny is now the final farewell.
What does that mean to
the rest of us? Not everyone has opportunity for 30
years of television legacy. It will be a long time
before that celluloid crumbles forgotten. Do our lives
imprint the world in some manner, lasting beyond our
brief sentient moments?
I lost my father last
year – he could be described as curmudgeonly, yet that
does not lessen the love and tribute I hold for him. I
would not be who I am, but for him. I am grateful not
only for mere existence, but also for beloved art,
literature, math, music, and aesthetics as gifts of his
So is death an
imagined foe? Or is it yet another perception that will
be unveiled beyond the door? In human form, neither
words nor images are conveyed in absolute form from that
I believe that we all
come from the same Source, and there we shall return
completely at peace with the aggregate of humankind. In
this physical life, all we can assert are our beliefs
and personal experience…and that is my belief.
But is there anything
we know more concrete about the eternal, everlasting or
merely aeonic in nature? We have hope in our children
from genetics…We have hope in the vastness of the
cosmos…We have hope in science that the physical essence
shall exist as varying forms of matter and energy. And
yet each of these has a limitation.
The only thing one can
be guaranteed is the moment we are experiencing now –
live that moment to last forever.
19-Jan-2005: Here sets the dome of the sky...
work considerably late today… Noting the sky was already
darkening, a taint of dread passed through me. I have
been listening to a new audio course on great authors
during my hour commute, and have been less than enthused
with the lecturer and his definition of "great."
St. Joseph (Missouri) amid heavy traffic and launched
myself on the Interstate as the tape opened and the
topic introduced. This is actually an author I want to
learn about, so my interest stirred. As I listened, the
sunset re-emphasized the vastness of the plains and how
Native Americans could easily conceive the world
existing under a large dome that was the sky. Then, to
the west, streams of coral and bright pinks playing in
this dome captivated my mind – and the tales of Victor
Hugo faded away.
have been rare these last few weeks – censored by
clouds, political machinations and natural disasters. In
witness, I was drawn to James Joyce’s perception of
proper art (through his character Stephen Daedalus in
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) – it is
comprised of that beauty or sublimity which holds the
viewer in aesthetic stasis. It neither moves the
observer to desire – which is pornography, nor
does it incite loathing – which is didactic;
these both yield "kinetic emotion" an improper art.
vision of the sky – the vastness of the world…and the
universe…all creation… is awakened. This is as close as
the one can get in this world to the eternal.
to Aquinas, the three qualities of universal beauty are
Integritas, Convenientia and Claritas –
Integrity, Harmony and Radiance.
sunset darkens to violets and deep purple, I remind
myself to repeat the aesthetic experience at least twice
daily for as long as I am able.
16-Jan-2005: Resolution – The Hero’s Path
It is now two weeks
into the New Year, and resolutions are still fresh in my
mind. I have found that if I do not set expectations –
for the day, month, or year in scope – the things that
are critically important to me are relinquished to
neglect. I may not accomplish the goal in the set
timeframe, but the longer I actively hold these
thoughts, the more likely I am to attain the goal.
As always, improving
the health of my family and myself is the recurring
resolution – this goal always seems to have room for
greatest gain. The treadmill is dusted off and I’m
carving time 4-5 times/week to get it turning, albeit
slowly! Reducing fat, limiting carbohydrates and keeping
stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables completes that
Equally important to
me is the pursuit of exercises that have lasting
spiritual value. Holding and perceiving those perennial
ideas sustained by the great philosophers is the boon of
my life, however brief the experience. I do not know my
capacity to pass on the flame of these ideas. But if I
keep that joy pent inside – my fire can never be offered
for the sharing. So this resolution is to continue
learning, creating, writing to clarify my own life’s
path. And maybe, sometime, somewhere those ideas will
act as herald for another to set foot on their own
6-Jan-2005: The Weather Outside is Frightful!
As I stare out the
window on this frigid day in the Midwest, and
contemplate the glassy ice and falling tree limbs...
Isn’t it odd how something can be both beautiful and
We are all of that
same character – our choices may yield perceptions of
both good and evil. Often, this is not reflective of our
intentions – merely that we exist in a physical world
that demands that juxtaposition. The primary learning
from this is recognition that these perceptions exist,
and we must make the best decisions that we can
regardless of the perceptions. Whether my decision is
selfless or selfish, the consequences are borne by me.
It is in my interest to live the life worth living – to
travel the hero’s path.
My efforts with
MythicHero.com are really about metaphors for
experiencing life … how else to start this blog than
with my own metaphor written over 25 years ago on a day
very much like today:
From the Newly Fallen Snow
Long Skinny Fingers of Ice
From Under a Blanket
As the Sun Sets
Makes the Scene Blush
God’s World Immortalized in Glass
Take a moment very soon to contemplate