“You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there’s a path, it is someone else’s path; each human being is a unique phenomenon.” Joseph Campbell – Pathways to Bliss
Metaphor notwithstanding, Campbell’s quote is interesting because it’s almost like he saying to get off any path others have laid down or you won’t be truly on your own path (No Hero’s Journey for you!).
There have been many times on my Journeys that I have felt lost: feeling like I am surrounded by seemingly endless shifting sand dunes with only wind ripples visible. Or seeing only towering woods all around, no breaks in the ferns, and just peeks of the sky. I have never, ever thought, “Perfect. I am on my own path!” I was scared. I was disillusioned.
I like reading Campbell, but since I read that he said women didn’t go on Hero’s Journeys, I take what I like and leave the rest. When I encounter those dark places, after the initial panic or fright, I know enough to look around and find a reference point. If I find another’s path I am overjoyed.
The more I think about it, my reference points always mean someone has walked before me and handed me wisdom. Here’s what I mean: If I’m lost and look for the sun or stars in the sky, I’m using astronomers’ work from millennia to guide me. If I need to do home repairs, I watch a video on YouTube for guidance. The maker of the video isn’t coming into my house and wielding the wrench — I am. But she’s created a path for me.
Even though each person working on clearing a mine field walks by themselves, they are following stringent guidelines set down by many others still in front of them (hopefully).
I prefer to think of those other path makers as allies and mentors. I don’t think there’s any need to be obstinate about it. It’s reassuring to see another’s footsteps near yours.
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash