That’s kind of become one of those often repeated buzz terms these days, usually eliciting a groan upon reading. The pursuit of happiness, whatever you want to call it today, is the topic of the latest book I re-read (Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss). In this work, some of his collected lectures and essays relating to this topic are compiled in very readable fashion. It isn’t a self-help book, despite the title – Campbell writes about mythologies around the world, attempting the synthesize the ideas with more modern understandings of psychology.
Now, Campbell is far from perfect, of course. My main complaint personally would be his reliance on Freud as a reliable source for knowledge of psychology, but he can be forgiven for that as a product of his time. I love Campbell’s concise examination of various myths, and the way he weaves them together to explain the common threads that seem to run between stories in all cultures humans have created. This book, while less focused as a result of how it came to be, was still a worthwhile read to be sure. I’ll admit it only whetted my appetite to go dig up my copy of Hero With a Thousand Faces (probably more popularly known as the book George Lucas read before making Star Wars, Campbell’s breakdown of the hero’s journey in myth).
This book still held value in it’s own right, to be sure, though. It’s interesting to examine the ways in which different groups of people have attempted to tackle a problem in the stories they tell each other. In that way, I personally found great value in seeing the pursuit of bliss played out across many myths. At the end of the day, that’s what myths were about then – finding those stories that can connect to people at those hard times in life, to help people come to terms with parts of being human, to show us that we are not alone when we struggle. It can be what myths are about now, too. We just need new myths.