Most philosophers have quite a bit to say. It is difficult to reduce their volume of work to a few words. That’s not the case with American writer, mythologist and lecturer Joseph Campbell, whose personal philosophy is frequently reduced to three words. “Follow your bliss.”
Campbell’s most famous quote came from his study of spirituality and comparative religion. He referred to Sanskrit as the great spiritual language and said that the “jumping-off-place to the ocean of transcendence” was expressed with the words sat, chit and ananda. Those words mean being, consciousness and bliss.
Campbell said, “I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my bliss is. So let me hang on to bliss, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.” His full quote on bliss is, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” By following your bliss, you will find the path in life that was waiting for you.
He was dismayed years later when hedonists took his advice to mean if it feels good, you should do it. He remarked, “I should have said ‘Follow your blisters.'”
Campbell’s book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is widely used in universities for their mythology courses. His definition of a hero is not the same as the dictionary definition. He said, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
His wisdom shines through in many of his inspirational quotes that have nothing to do with mythology or religion. Another of Campbell’s gems advises us to not plan our lives so much and to let them happen naturally the way a stream makes a path down a hill. “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
When we are faced with sadness or grief, Campbell said we should, “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
No matter what, Campbell respected life as the hero journey that we all walk. To him, living your own life is its own reward. As he put it, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”