Earlier today I was prompted to write about a moment from childhood. It was a time to reminisce and to reflect, but while other people were carefully crafting their narrative, I was left alone with my thoughts. I tried in vain to think of something, anything, to write about, but to no avail. I’ve long known that I’ve repressed most of my childhood, as I have very few memories (and even fewer fond ones), but I was surprised when I was assaulted with the realization that I’m equally good at blocking out life. In my attempt to numb the pain, I’ve numbed the joy, as well as the experience of being alive. Essentially, I’ve shut myself down to the moments that make life worth living.
Joseph Campbell is often quoted for saying, “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” He’s right, and for a long time this resonated deep within me. But now…it just doesn’t, even though I still believe it.
My experience of being alive isn’t very fulfilling right now and I find myself with a strange detachment toward it.
“Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.” -Joseph Campbell
Today marks the day, over a hundred years ago, when Joseph Campbell was born. He had his fair share of conflicts and struggles, yet worked them all out in a brilliant way– a way that would influence every generation since.
An avid storyteller, Campbell told the story of all of us, from the people who came before us to the people we’ll never meet. He told the story of our struggles and resolutions, our desire to experience life, and our quest of living out the hero’s journey in our own lives. He told the story of compassion.
While reading this book, the author mentions Campbell and describes an adoptees journey in terms of a hero’s journey. The following passages are those that directly relate:
When adoptees set out on the search, they are answering what Joseph Campbell describes as The Call: the first stage of the mythic journey in which the hero ventures forth from the familiar world into the unknown.
The journey is the adoptee’s heroic attempt to bring together the split parts of the self. It is an authentic way of being born again. It is an act of will; a new dimension of experience. It is the quest for the intrinsic nature one was horn with before it got twisted out of shape by secrecy and disavowal. It is a way of modifying the past, of living out the script that might have been. It is a way of taking control of one’s own destiny, of seizing power. It is a way of finding oneself.
Yet we must not forget Campbell’s warning that the hero’s journey, for all its glory and liberation, is on the razor’s edge. The hero will have to go into a dark forest where he will be confronted with a series of trials that challenge his courage and ingenuity. The hero can never let down his guard: the glorious road to transformation and growth is strewn with death encounters and survivor-like experiences. The adoptee’s journey can be a time of chaos as well as wonder. There are no safe parameters. No way of staying in control. As they stagger through a dark no-man’s land between two states of being-the born and the unborn -adoptees are elated one moment, devastated the next.
Currently, I’m in the dark forest, doing my best to look forward to the day where the sunlight finally makes its way through the trees.
(I’m failing so far.)