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Joseph Campbell & All the Answers

Geez Louise. Took me about 3 days to watch this video. This is one I will come back to again and again. Below I’ve copied some lines that stood out to me. There were more things that stood out to me than I anticipated.


  • Where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god.
  • And where we had thought to slay another we shall find ourselves.
  • And where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence.
  • And where we thought to be alone, we will be with the whole world.

…because that’s what’s worth writing about: someone who’s given his life to something bigger than himself.


That is the basic motif of the hero journey: leaving one condition, finding the source of life to bring you forth in a richer condition.


On ego

The real problem is of primarily thinking about yourself, thinking about your self protection, losing yourself, giving yourself to another that’s what a trial is in itself.

What all of us have to deal with is a transformation of consciousness — that you’re thinking in THIS way and you have now to think in THAT way.

How is the transformation performed? By trials and illuminating revelations. Trials and revelations are what it’s all about.


On the whale & consciousness

The belly of the whale is the descent into the dark. The whale represents, is the personification of you might say, all the things in the subconscious. Water is the unconscious. The creature in the water is the dynamism of the unconscious, which is dangerous and powerful and has to be controlled by consciousness.

The first stage in a hero’s adventure is leaving the realm of light, which he controls and knows about, and moving towards the threshold. And it’s at the threshold that the monster of the abyss comes to meet him.

And then there are 2 or 3 results: 1. the hero is cut to pieces and descends into the abyss in fragments to be resurrected. 2. He may kill the dragon power, as Sigfried does when he kills the dragon. But then he tastes the dragon blood and assimilates its power. Now he hears the song of nature, he has transcended his humanity, re-associated himself with the powers of nature, which are the powers of our life, from which our mind removes us.

You see our mind, this consciousness, thinks it’s running the shop. It’s a secondary organ, a secondary organ of a total human being and it must NOT put itself in control. It must submit and serve the humanity of the body. When it does assert it’s control you get this man who has gone over to the intellectual side. (Darth Vader reaching to Luke: “Come with me and I will complete your training.”)


It’s the edge, the interface between what can be known and what is never to be discovered because it is a mystery transcendent of all human research… the source of life. What is it? Nobody knows.


On character

Our life evokes our character, you find out more about yourself as you go on. And it is very nice to put yourself in situations that evoke your higher character rather than your lower.


It’s important to live life with a knowledge of its mystery, and of your own mystery. It gives life a new zest, balance, harmony to do this.

… erase anxieties, get into accord with the inevitabilities of your life, see the positive values in the negative and the negative aspects of the positive…

… She thought she was alone, you see? But she had friends. This is killing the dragon…


On Dragons

The european dragon represents greed. He guards things in his cave, heaps of gold and virgins. He can’t make use of either of them, he just guards. [...] Psychologically, the dragon is one’s own binding of oneself to one’s ego, and you’re captured in your own dragon cage.

The real dragon is in you, it’s your ego holding you in. Your ego is: what I want, what I believe, what I can do, what I think i love, what I regard as the aim of my life and so forth. It might be too small, it might be that which pins you down. And if it’s simply that of doing what the environment tells you to do (your system) it certainly IS too small. And so the environment is your dragon and it reflects within yourself.

How do you slay your dragon? Follow your bliss, find where it is… do not be afraid to follow it. If the work that you’re doing is the work you chose because you enjoy it, then you’ve found it. But if you think, “oh I couldn’t do that…” That’s your dragon locking you in. “Oh no, I couldn’t be a writer, I couldn’t do what so and so is doing.”


Do we save ourselves or the world? You save the world by saving yourself. A vital person revitalizes the world. The world is a wasteland.

Do I have to do it alone? If you have someone who can help you, that’s fine too. But, ultimately, the last trick has to be done by you.


On the place to find

What is the place to find? Buddha’s nirvana, etc… what is that place? It’s a place in yourself of rest. Nirvana is a psychological state of mind. It’s not a place like heaven, not something that’s not here. It IS here in the middle of the turmoil, the whirlpool of life’s condition. Nirvana is the condition that comes when you are not compelled by desire or by fear or by social commitments. When you hold your center and act out of there.


On levels of consciousness

The way a flower turns it’s head to face the sun, heliotropism, is a kind of consciousness. There is a plant consciousness. There’s an animal consciousness. And we share all of these things. You eat foods and the bile of your stomach knows if there’s something there to work on… this whole thing is consciousness. I begin to feel more and more that the whole world is conscious. If we see ourselves as coming out of the earth rather than plopped here from somewhere else, we are the earth, we are the consciousness of the earth, these are the eyes of the earth, this is the voice of the earth, what else!?

How do we elevate our consciousness? Meditation. All of life is a meditation, most of it unintentional. A lot of people spend most of their meditating on where their money’s coming from and where it’s going to go, but that’s a level of meditation. Or if you have a family to bring up, you’re concerned for the family. These are all certainly very important concerns, but they have to do with physical conditions mostly. How are you going to communicate spiritual consciousness to the children if you don’t have it yourself, so how do you get that? The myths. What the myths are for is to bring us into a level of consciousness which is spiritual.

… this is simply a lower level of that…


… when he’s talking about the old cathedral man… “want to see my room?” I got nervous for him.

My own note: myths, maybe, are not the stories themselves, certainly not the historical facts of the events. Rather they a myth is the way it changes our civilization over time. A myth is never finished in this sense. A myth is not the events, not the story nor the moral, but it’s the way all the things of the myth interact with our consciousness over years and years… not as individuals but as a human organism, a civilization. A myth is the way that myth causes us to change the way we live over hundreds of years.


On what informs society

You can tell what’s informing society by which buildings are the tallest. When you approach a medieval town, the cathedral is the tallest in the place. 17th century, it’s the political palace that’s the tallest in the place. And when you approach a modern city, it’s the office buildings and dwellings that are the tallest in the place. That’s the history of western civilization, from the gothic through the princely periods of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, to this economic world that we’re in now.


3 requirements of myths

All myths have talked about (1) the maturation of the individual: the pedagogical way to follow from dependency, through adulthood, through maturity and then to the exit and how to do it. And then (2) how to relate to this society and (3) how to relate this society to the world of nature and the cosmos.

“What I left behind: that old way of living, where pushing and controlling and multi-tasking chokes out love and kindness and presence. I left behind exhaustion as a way of life, and as a status symbol. I left behind work as identity and scooped up as much love and hospitality as I could, cramming it into my worn-out heart, bringing it home, bringing it into a life I’m still remaking from the inside out.”

Shauna Niequist


I was on this trip with Shauna. The experience is fk’n with me… in a good way. Hospitality as a lifestyle…

“We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different”

Kurt Vonnegut

“When I catch myself wishing for more than incremental progress that’s directionally correct, I remind myself of the companionship I’ve discovered in this murky, mucky place, down and to the left. I belong to this place, for this is the place where, as David Whyte writes, ‘I ask my friends to come, this is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love.’ Me and my broken-hearted friends, we belong here.

Jerry Colonna


An excellent, short post from a man who’s walked the big entrepreneurial paths before and keeps coming back in to the the center of things.

Bill Bernbach on Technique, Substance & What Makes Advertising Great

5/15/47

Dear ______________ :

Our agency is getting big. That’s something to be happy about. But it’s something to worry about, too, and I don’t mind telling you I’m damned worried. I’m worried that we’re going to fall into the trap of bigness, that we’re going to worship techniques instead of substance, that we’re going to follow history instead of making it, that we’re going to be drowned by superficialities instead of buoyed up by solid fundamentals. I’m worried lest hardening of the creative arteries begin to set in.

There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier reading. They can give you fact after fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there’s one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.

It’s that creative spark that I’m so jealous of for our agency and that I am so desperately fearful of losing. I don’t want academicians. I don’t want scientists. I don’t want people who do the right things. I want people who do inspiring things.

In the past year I must have interviewed about 80 people – writers and artists. Many of them were from the so-called giants of the agency field. It was appalling to see how few of these people were genuinely creative. Sure, they had advertising know-how. Yes, they were up on advertising technique.

But look beneath the technique and what did you find? A sameness, a mental weariness, a mediocrity of ideas. But they could defend every ad on the basis that it obeyed the rules of advertising. It was like worshiping a ritual instead of the God.

All this is not to say that technique is unimportant. Superior technical skill will make a good ad better. But the danger is a preoccupation with technical skill or the mistaking of technical skill for creative ability. The danger lies in the temptation to buy routinized men who have a formula for advertising. The danger lies In the natural tendency to go after tried-and-true talent that will not make us stand out in competition but rather make us look like all the others.

If we are to advance we must emerge as a distinctive personality. We must develop our own philosophy and not have the advertising philosophy of others imposed on us.

Let us blaze new trails. Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art, and good writing can be good selling.

Respectfully,
Bill Bernbach


I just… i mean… it’s all so… perfect. This is perfect.

Bernbach is already top of mind for me as I look for people in creative business that I can learn from…

In this note (found here) is a depth of vision showing more than just creative spark.

More than maverick, “fuck it!” creativity. (His work was so good it makes me want to reduce him to this kind of intense, unsafe fire.)

As I build my own company, as we go through the stages of boom, excitement, feedback, plateau, opportunity, reaching, spinning up, scaling, etc., how could I possibly keep this top of mind enough?

I can’t even think of a favorite piece of this quote.

“Anybody who wants more money, a better job, or a bigger house is ultimately just wishing for a new set of anxieties.”

Merlin Mann

Jennifer Senior on a New Script for Parents

The one mantra no parent ever questions is, “All I want is for my children to be happy.” And don’t get me wrong: I think happiness is a wonderful goal for a child. But it is a very elusive one. Happiness and self-confidence, teaching children that is not like teaching them how to plow a field. It’s not like teaching them how to ride a bike. There’s no curriculum for it. Happiness and self-confidence can be the byproducts of other things, but they cannot really be goals unto themselves. A child’s happiness is a very unfair burden to place on a parent. And happiness is an even more unfair burden to place on a kid. [...]

Absent having new scripts, we just follow the oldest ones in the book – decency, a work ethic, love — and let happiness and self-esteem take care of themselves. I think if we all did that, the kids would still be all right, and so would their parents, possibly in both cases even better.”

Jennifer Senior

Campaigns for George

Ever heard of George McGovern? There’s a story about this guy’s run for presidency that’s instructive for any of us looking to do good work in the world.

See that picture above? It’s a bunch of artists contributing pieces to a large mural in support if George’s run for presidency. (He ran against Nixon.)

I randomly stumbled upon this picture while staying in a friend’s house. It was in a book about artists and writers and the parties they threw in the Hamptons from 1950-1980.

As I flipped through the pages, taking in all the famous faces pictured in house parties and on sandy beaches with cigarettes and coffee mugs and cocktail glasses in their hands, a fable about these people evolved in my head.

It made me think about my own work and my own friends who are doing good work. It made me think about some parties I’ve attended and the faces of other people who were there.

And a kind of fable about the people in this particular picture (the one above, here’s a bigger version) sort of came clear in my head.

Here’s some ideas that stuck with me.

(Please spare any political tirades or history lessons. I don’t know much about this time or these people. Don’t care to.)


Must have been a lot of work getting everyone together to work on this.

I bet these artists think they’re doing something big. I bet they think they are big deals.

I have a little reach myself. I’ve been in (extremely minor) situations where I felt similarly, when someone thought my contribution would help in an important way.

“People pay attention to me. I’m sort of a big-ish deal,” they think to themselves. “Sure, I’ll help support the cause.”

I have never heard of George McGovern. I can paint a bit of a picture: he was the democrat running against Nixon. Artists love dems, traditionally… or so I’ve heard.

“Hey guys, let’s do something big, something important to make a stand. To make a statement and support this guy. We can’t let the republicans ruin this country. Let’s do something together… let’s make it count.”

But then George didn’t win.

What did they feel then? What do they think looking back? Did they already know they’re help wasn’t going to matter? “We tried. Whatever. Meh.”

Were they discouraged? “Last time I ply my oars for this backwards fucking party… backwards fucking country, too.”

Again this is all some fable in my head. I don’t know if any of this shit is true. But I could imagine myself as one of the artists here. It’s a fable, but it’s instructive for any of us trying to do something big, something that makes a change, something that brings light to darkness and joy in the suffering.

Many of our projects will end up being campaigns for George. If, instead of trying, we hold ourselves back, don’t contribute, we’ll save a little face. We won’t have put our necks out for a loser.

But I see another story in these photos. I don’t see anything about a president. I don’t see any real purpose.

I see an excuse for a bunch of weirdos and ragamuffins to get together and make something.

I don’t see art critics talking about “what this means.” I see a weird dude in a hat painting on his friend’s back.

I see cocktails on a massive canvas.

I see an old dude in a chair smiling lackadaisically and another old dude on his knees measuring meticulously.

In episode 47 of the podcast I intro us as the muppets. And at the end I mention this great quote about the moral of the muppet movie:

“The message of the movie is that a bunch of wonderfully eccentric, creative and outlandish individuals can somehow be brought together and stay together, because they take great joy in what they do.”

That’s what I see most in these pictures.

The guy they were rooting for didn’t win. George lost.

These folks painted anyways, almost as if they were dancing to their own music, following the joy and groove of the making, doing what they can with what they have focusing on what they can control (the making) disconnected from what results may come.

It’s just a fable in my head, but I want to get into that groove, the joy in the making, more… For a while at least.

When you work for yourself you need results too. I gotta make that coin. But I’m prone to an imbalance, and when I’m too results-focused I make worse stuff… Because I’m smiling less in the making.

Go get some friends together and help a George get elected.

That’s all you can ever do in life: do your best and enjoy yourself.”

Dr Steve Peters

Trail Therapy — a modern day rustic poet

“In 1999, lost his son to suicide. A few years later he lost his daughter to a drug overdose. At sixty-four years old, he has walked across the United States seven times to raise awareness for depression and suicide and to inspire people he meets to “love life.”

This was, just… when he cries… his language… i just… the juxtaposition of how he looks, the down to earth idioms, his story, the simple quest he’s on and the handful of moments of free-flow beatnik poetry… this is magic.


…so they can go through that situation of pain and convert that damn evil, negative self pity into self reliance and go help others with it through nothing more than telling their own story.”

Alan Watts on Why Man Suffers

Buddha’s doctrine: man suffers because of his craving to possess and keep forever things which are impermanent.”

Alan Watts


Quoting a tweet from a white, British eastern fiddler on ancient doctrines about life’s biggest questions… what a world.

I’m no Buddhist, but I’ll be damned if this sentiment right here doesn’t make some sense.

I Am For An Art That

I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.

I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a starting point of zero.

I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap and still comes out on top.

I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary.

I am for art that is smoked like a cigarette, smells like a pair of shoes.

I am for art that flaps like a flag, or helps blow noses like a handkerchief.

I am for art that comes out of a chimney like black hair and scatters in the sky.

I am for the art that a kid licks, after peeling away the wrapper.

I am for art that is put on and taken off like pants, which develops holes like socks, which is eaten like a piece of pie, or abandoned with great contempt like a piece of shit.

I am for all art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.

Claes Oldenburg


These are just a few bits and bobs from a longer piece. Cool guy.