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Mythic Hero - Personal Reflections

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Mythic Hero - Personal Reflections
By Lynne Milum

14-Jan-2012

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 these memories. 

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 inspiration!

26-Apr-2007:

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 from?

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.

15-Apr-2006: The 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 including our brain anatomy.

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 and humanity?

22-Mar-2006: Mythic Language

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 forever?

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 doctrines.

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.

As thinking 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).

8-Nov-2005: 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 yang.

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 Technology/Bioengineering.

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 adulthood.

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 works.

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.

My "initiation" 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.

8-Oct-2005: Hitting the Jackpot

It is 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 their pockets.

Which 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 your life?

A 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 want?

If the 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 livelihood source?

I 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.

Then to 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.

What's my 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' hits.

25-Sep-2005: Learning to be a Modern Day Hero

Our son 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 proximal party.

Only this year the party did not take place. Neither did Mack's. Our son messed up - he ventured to lie a grownup-sized lie.

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.

Who says there are no modern-day heroes?

Every 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 destiny.

As 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.

Who did you consider in your last decision?

2-Aug-2005: What's the blues got to do with it?

This 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 (quarry).

I scanned 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.

So what 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 suffering.

There is 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.

Blues is a metaphor for life. Mythology is a metaphor for life...

20-Jul-2005: 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.

"For the 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.

11-Jul-2005: The 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., extrovert/introvert/sensing/intuition/thinking/feeling. 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.

I remember staying up late with her the nightHild Aff (1900-2000) before her 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 Books

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 heard about.

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.

1-Jul-2005: 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:

  1. To put a personal slant on how mythological archetypes influence our practical lives;

  2. To discipline my writing and allow for psychological time to develop ideas;

  3. 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.

Concurrently, my 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 Frustrated Writer.

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 thoughts.

Now to share some favorite ‘still’ moments from the trip:

Garden of the Gods (Aesthetic Arrest)

Copyright 2005. Lynne Milum. All Rights Reserved.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (Comic Relief is Meditative)

Copyright 2005. Lynne Milum. All Rights Reserved.

Pikes Peak Summit

Copyright 2005. Lynne Milum. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2005. Lynne Milum. All Rights Reserved.

22-Apr-2005: What’s on your playlist today?

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 writing.

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 those decisions.

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 Cubmaster and Parker 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.

California Dreamin' 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 well.

Today 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’.

California Dreamin' is kind of like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz - It was there all along.


3-Mar-2005: The Global Flyer has landed…

Steve Fossett 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 achievement.

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?

02-Mar-2005: Spring is in the air

Ah, the 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?

Yes.

May your anticipation of spring be commensurate with the potential of a joyful lifetime.

14-Feb-2005: 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.

At this 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.

Times 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 visualize them.

Being 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.

Allowing 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.

3-Feb-2005: The Question of Art —or— Art of the Question

A previous 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 my question:

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 universally principled?

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 relativistic perspective.

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?

Socrates maintained 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!

28-Jan-2005: Educating Milum

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 high-grossing films.

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 education.

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 requirements.

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 unfathomed.

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 soul.

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 passageway.

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...

I left 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."

I left 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.

Sunsets 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.

In that 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.

According to Aquinas, the three qualities of universal beauty are Integritas, Convenientia and Claritas – Integrity, Harmony and Radiance.

As the 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 corporeal aim.

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 hero’s journey.


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 treacherous?

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:

Fragments

Little Heads
Peek Out
From the Newly Fallen Snow

Long Skinny Fingers of Ice
Reaching Out
From Under a Blanket

Broken Glass
Everywhere

As the Sun Sets
Makes the Scene Blush
With Guilt

God’s World Immortalized in Glass

Lynne Milum

1976

Take a moment very soon to contemplate your choices.

 



 

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