Not long after moving in with her, my wife introduced me to Joseph Campbell’s divinely inspired three-word directive: Follow your bliss. This seemed like very good advice, and I was at a point in my life where I was in need of good advice. Hadn’t I followed my bliss and found myself living with this lovely woman? And shouldn’t this simple formula apply to all of life, not merely romantic love?
With a command this short, however, it is important you consider every word. At that time, I was mostly interested in the last. This is, I suppose, because I viewed bliss as essentially stationary, a kind of post-coital rest delivered you after much pleasurable labor. In this way, one arrives at bliss and then, maybe, falls asleep.
But Campbell did not advise us to “find bliss and stay perfectly still lest it flit away”; no, we were to follow our bliss. As if I hadn’t done just that. As if I hadn’t driven 1,500 miles so I could knock on her door. No matter. You hear what you are ready to hear, and one out of three words was all I was ready to hear that day.
It was only recently that I really heard that first word. It was only recently that I understood that first word was equally as important as the last. Like it or not, humans are forever in motion, even if we spend our lives in bed, because our thoughts alone contain as much energy and direction as a cocked arrow. And so the question posed with our every waking breath is: Where?
Thus Campbell’s perfect direction. It can seem a risky thing, I know. Bliss is nice, but there are mouths to feed and perhaps a reputation to protect. What if this bliss of mine leads me somewhere I don’t want to be? What if my bliss is to sit on the couch and eat Cheetos? This question makes no sense even in the asking, and yet we persist in asking it all the same.
Such is the perverse distrust of our logical mind. You cannot, after all, follow your bliss unless it is present. You cannot follow your bliss unless you already have it, or there would be nothing to follow. Bliss, then, is freedom – freedom from the thought that you require anything more than what you already have.
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