About ten years ago, I had finshed my MBA,
landed the great finance job, bought the new car. Everything
was running right on track, but a part of me wanted to run out
of town. A new adventure was calling.
I followed that call into the wilderness,
quite literally as an instructor with Outward Bound, an international
adventure learning organization -- and I with a copy of An Open Life, Michael
Toms' interview with mythology scholar Joseph Campbell, tucked
in my pocket.
What follows here is a short exerpt from
that text and one which provided important reassurance early
on and now fairly sums up a decade or more of my own experience.
It also provides a fitting beginning for our own adventures in
the open space between the learning organization and truly inspired
Joseph Campbell was a brilliant scholar,
writer, and teacher and one of the foremost interpreters of our
most sacred traditions. Michael Toms is the host of New Dimensions
Radio and a new-paradigm spokesperson in his own right.
Today, all historical circumstances are changing,
and we no longer have the enclosing horizons that shut us in
from knowledge of other people -- new worlds are breaking in
on us all the time. It's inevitable that a person with any sense
of openness to new experience will say to himself, "Now,
this won't do, the way we're living." Do you see what I
mean? And so, one goes out for one's self to find a broader base,
a broader relationship.
On the other hand, there's plenty of reason
for those who don't have this feeling to remain within the field
because our societies today are so rich in the gifts that they
can render. But if a person has had the sense of the Call --
the feeling that there's an adventure for him -- and if he doesn't
follow that, but remains in the society because it's safe and
secure, then life dries up. And then he comes to that condition
in late middle age: he's gotten to the top of the ladder, and
found that it's against the wrong wall.
If you have the guts to follow the risk, however,
life opens, opens, opens up all along the line. I'm not superstitious,
but I do believe in spiritual magic, you might say. I feel that
if one follows what I call one's "bliss" -- the thing
that really gets you deep in your gut and that you feel is your
life -- doors will open up. They do! They have in my life and
they have in many lives that I know of.
There's a wonderful paper by Schopenhauer,
called "An Apparent Intention of the Fate of the Individual,"
in which he points out that when you are at a certain age --
the age I am now -- and look back over your life, it seems to
be almost as orderly as a composed novel. And just as in Dickens'
novels, little accidental meetings and so forth turn out to be
main features in the plot, so in your life. And what seem to
have been mistakes at the time, turn out to be directive crises.
And then he asks: "Who wrote this novel?"
Life seems as though it were planned; and
there is something in us that's causing what you hear
of as being accident prone: it's something in ourselves. There
is a mystery here. Schopenhauer finally asks the question: Can
anything happpen to you for which you're not ready? I look back
now on certain things that at the time seemed to be real disasters,
but the results turned out to be the structuring of a really
great aspect of my life and career. So what can you say?
And the other point is, if you follow your
bliss, you'll have your bliss, whether you have money or not.
If you follow money, you may lose money, and then you don't have
even that. The secure way is really the insecure way and the
way in which the richness of the quest accumulates is the right
...There's a kind of regular morphology and
inevitable sequence of experiences if you start out to follow
your adventure. I don't care whether it's in economics, in art,
or just in play. There's the sense of the potential that opens
out before you. And you have no idea how to achieve it; you start
out into the dark. Then, strange little help-mates come along,
frequently represented by little dark fairy spirits or the little
gnomes, who just give you clues, and these open out. Then there
is the sense of danger you always run into -- really deep peril
-- because no one has gone this way before. And the winds blow,
and you're in a forest of darkness very often and terror strikes
...Well, mythology tells us that where you
stumble, there your treasure is. There are so many examples.
One that comes to mind is in The Arabian Nights. Someone
is plowing a field, and his plow gets caught. He digs down to
see what it is and discovers a ring of some kind. When he hoists
the ring, he finds a cave with all of the jewels in it. And so
it is in our own psyche [and organizations!]; our psyche is the
cave with all the jewels in it, and it's the fact that we're
not letting their energies move us that brings us up short. The
world is a match for us and we're a match for the world. And
where it seems most challenging lies the greatest invitation
to find deeper and greater powers in ourselves.
Open Life by Michael Toms. ©
1989 by the New Dimensions Foundation. Published by Harper &
Row, Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.