The web of existence is dense – filled with energy, memory and phantoms. For all its sorrows, the web in which we all are caught and can not fully explain or escape also contains the simple joy of being alive.

The Captain was born in Iona, Scotland and has been the Captain of the ship, the Iolaire all his life. We share the same name. By experience, the Captain knows the sea as both beautiful and violent. Neither in its loveliness nor its terror, does the ocean take prisoners. The arms of the sea brought short the lives of the Captain’s son at the age of twenty three and his four friends of the same age when the sea drowned them in a winter storm while the lads crossed the Iona Sound. He and I share the same name as his son.

David Kirkpatrick at the Cemetery in Iona

David Kirkpatrick at the Cemetery in Iona

Despite the sorrows, the Captain maintains a puckish exhilaration. He knelt in the long grass to allow me to discover a Puffin nest dug in the soil. He unfurled his pointer finger to introduce me to two new seal pups on the wet blue rocks. I realized the vastness of the web the day I met the Captain in his sorrows and joys. While I am not the Captain, I am him as sure as I am not the ghost of his son and as sure as I am. For as sure as we are the many, we are also the one.


The Charles Kirkpatricks and the Alec McCormicks in Iona, Scotland around 1920

The Charles Kirkpatricks and the Alec McCormicks in Iona, Scotland around 1920

Note: David Kirkpatrick, the author of this blog, is known  as David Paul Kirkpatrick. To avoid confusion with David Kirkpatrick, the author of The Facebook Effect, the two Davids agreed that  the one David would add “Paul” to his name.

The Thistle Flower in Iona, Scotland

The Thistle Flower in Iona, Scotland

From the French short film,  Le Ballon rouge, 1956
From the French short film, Le Ballon Rouge, 1956

“Follow your bliss.”

“Follow your bliss” is Joe Campbell’s motto and mantra. As defined in Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary,  (always an amusing, often provocative reference),  Bliss is “The highest degree of happiness; blessedness; felicity; used of felicity in general, when of an exalted kind, but appropriately, of heavenly joys.”

But what happens if you have lost your bliss? How can you rekindle it? Joseph Campbell, the  world-famous mythologist,  believes you can jump-start it in two  easy steps.

Here they are, in his own words –

1) Find a Sacred Place

The sacred place “is an absolute necessity for anybody today, You must have a room , or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is a place of creative incubation. At first, you might find that nothing happens there.  But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

2) Read A Book Or Hear A Song You Loved

“Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older,” Campbell says,”  the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you.”

“Where is your bliss station? You have to try and find it. Get a phonograph and put on the music that you really love, even if it’s corny music that nobody else respects. Or get the book you like to read. In your sacred place you get the “thou” feeling of life that these people  (the ancient hunters) had for the whole world  in which they lived.”

As for the challenges and psychic sufferings in life? “Find a place inside where there is joy, “Campbell writes, “and the joy will burn out the pain.”

Proof of Concept

I followed Campbell’s advice on rediscovering  bliss through books.  I went back and reread the two books that gave me “bliss” early in life. The first was The Agony and The Ecstasy a biographical novel of the life of Michelangelo by Irving Stone. I read the book when I was nine. The second was My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin . I was twelve when I read it. Both were about artists.

When I look back on my life, there is no question those two books, (ordered through  my family’s subscription to the Book Of The Month Club – remember that club?) had everything to do with my  own journey in helping film-makers cultivate their voice and their art.

As for songs,  I took  Campbell’s suggestion,  veering toward  the “corny music that nobody else respects.” That was the work of The Carpenters.  For me, it was magic. There is such a captivating and haunting tone in Karen Carpenter’s voice.

I hope this spring, in a time of transition, you find the time to check out the literature and music that pointed you to the person you are today. It may open a lens to your inner self which has been obscured by the rigors of time.

Note: The quotes were taken from the book, The Power Of Myth, a redaction of the legendary conversations between Bill Moyers and Joe Campbell from the 1980s.