(gentle music) – Well audience, welcome. It is so good to see you. We are interviewing someone
that I think will… If you do not know already, you will be so glad that you do now. And this is Bob Walter, He's executive director
and board president of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, we'll be telling you about that today. And we just welcome you. Bob, it's so good to have you. – It's great to be with you, Nelda. It really is even if we don't
have margaritas this time. – Oh, if only. I don't think the team will
let us, but you know. (laughs) So, the last time you
and I saw each other, because you have such a love for theater, was at the premiere opening
night of The Prom on Broadway. That's been a while, so
it is so good to see you. Tell us a little bit, you
started in theater and arts, and then I guess it
was 1979 that your life took another interesting turn, so could you fill us in
a little bit on all that? – Oh, I'll be glad to.
This little story actually is an example of Campbell's aphorism of needing to let go of
the life you've planned in order to have the life
that's waiting for you. So let me back up to late 1977, early 1978. I was working in a theater. My wife Nola who you know,
was also in the theater. But I was getting restless in New York and I started to think, you know I'd like to maybe get back
to why I got into theater, which paradoxically was
not to work on Broadway, although I loved it, but
to create what I thought of as secular rituals.
Your coming out of the sixties and seeing how concerts and festivals
brought people together, I was interested in theater as a way to bring people together in real time. So I began to look around for where this might happen and I ended up taking a
job as producing director of the little theater of Savannah. Now my wife and I began to,
Nola and I began to pack up, and the first thing that
happened which should have been a sign to me and wasn't,
is I got a call saying that the theater burned down. And I said well the theater– – [Nelda] Wow! – As it was this little
old converted golf club, and I said, that's okay. I really like doing
theater in found spaces and we'll just have a fundraising campaign and build a new theater. Okay, forward ho. This is where we're going. We're going to Savannah. And then three days before
we were supposed to leave, Nola came back and she said, "I just got offered a job today." And I said, isn't it interesting, as we're leaving town
you get offered a job? And I said well, what was it? And she said, "I was asked
to be executive director "of the Theater of the Open Eye." And I said, Nola that's Joe Campbell
and Jean Erdman's theater.
And she said, "Yeah, I know." And I said, you've got to take it. You got to do that. So she took the job
and I went to Savannah, and I started the campaign,
did all this other stuff, brought in big names, built a company that was
half New York and half local. Now we're into 1979, and I came back to New York
to cast the next season, and also to attend an opening night and celebration for a new
show that Jean Erdman, Joseph Campbell's wife
and Nola had put on. And following the show, we went to dinner at the New York Athletic Club, and so it was Joe
Campbell and Jean Erdman, my wife Nola Hague and I
and there was another couple there I'd never met before, a man named Alfred van
der Marck and his wife, Margaret Haswell, who was an opera singer. Over the course of the dinner, which was supposed to be
celebrating this opening, I heard Fred and Joe
started this conversation and I learned that Joseph
Campbell had been working on this magnum opus for like five years, Fred was a publisher at McGraw Hill, and Fred ran a studio
in Lucerne, Switzerland, where he produced large
illustrated lavish co-publications.
And this book which I learned was called "The Historical Atlas of World Mythology" was being done there. I also learned that the day before, McGraw Hill had told Fred van der Marck to shut the studio down immediately. And so he closed it and
everybody dispersed. And the conversation at the table was what are we gonna do with five years of work on this incompleted book? And Fred said, "I can't take it." He worked out of one
office at McGraw Hill. And Joe said, "Fred, number
one I don't have room." He lived in a two room
apartment with his wife. The bedroom was his
study, in the living room they had a double bed they slept on, and they took a card table
and set it up for breakfast. He said, "I have no place to put it." And so this conversation went on, well what are we gonna do? You know we need to get it out of there because they're gonna shut…
The studio's shut down, everybody's gone but there's these boxes. So, that was the dinner
table conversation, and the meal ended with no resolution. Two days later, I got a phone
call from a friend in Atlanta saying, "Are you aware that
you're in the paper today?" And I said, no. He said, "Two articles." And I said, what? And he said, "What do you
want, good news or bad?" And I said, good news. And he said, "Well, good
news is that the legislature "granted a $500,000 contribution
toward the new theater." I understood one of the first
bricks and mortar grants for the arts. And he said, "And the
bad news is last night "the board met with a bare quorum "and they terminated your
contract effective immediately." – [Nelda] Ooh!
– Ah! So I thought, alright. I had the initial reaction. I had a friend who actually is the lawyer in "Midnight in the
Garden of Good and Evil." He was my good friend and lawyer, and I called him up and we'll sue them, we'll do all this stuff
and this was just I was…
All my plans, everything
was up in the air, gone. But that weekend, Joe Campbell was doing
a series of lectures at the Open Eye and when I was in town, and even before Nola took the job there, I would drop in when they did lectures. I would kind of be his tech guy, I'd help him run the slides and things. And so I went that weekend to
be there and be supportive. At noon, Joe and I snuck off because
otherwise he'd never get lunch, he'd just get peppered with questions. And over a hamburger and a beer I said, look, my situation has changed.
Nola and I have a two room apartment, we have a spare bedroom. A two bedroom apartment,
we have a spare bedroom. So if you and Fred wanna
send back to me these boxes, I'll do my best to sort
of take care of them and maybe get them in order
and then when you come back from your lecture tour,
'cause he was two days away from leaving for his annual lecture tour. You and Fred can pick up the pieces and go on and make your book. And he sets a very interesting offer. "Why don't you come down on Monday "to the apartment and
we'll talk about it?" So I went down to his apartment on Monday and we had a glorious day. We went through his library. He was pulling books off
the shelf and telling me why it was important and he
showed me how the library was organized and we went
and had our normal lunch, which was a burger and a beer. Came back, did it in the afternoon, about four o'clock, he said, "Okay, it's time to go see the ladies." And we got on the subway and
we went up to the theater.
We met our wives and we went out to dinner and he says, "See you in the morning." And the next morning we did it. Tuesday we did it, Wednesday we did it. On Thursday morning I said, Joe, this is just delightful, but I don't know why we're
doing this, you know? And he said, "Well, if
you're gonna work with me "you kind of need to know where things "are and why they're in this order." And I said, oh okay. And he said, "So are you working with me?" And I said, I guess so. And he said, "Well, let's go tell Fred." So we got on the subway,
we went up to McGraw Hill. We went to Fred's office. Joe said, "Fred, this is Bob. "You met him the other night. "He's gonna be the editor.
"He's gonna take over editing this series. "You're the publisher,
I'm the writer onward. "And oh, by the way Fred,
you're gonna pay it." And we went back and two days later, Joe took off on the road, and a week or so after that
I got all of these boxes of files in French and German and English, and mock ups of pages and pictures. And it was clear that
they were working files, meaning there was no apparent order. So I have a little bit
of OCD, so I thought– (Nelda laughs) I'll get my hand in here and
I started making organization. And six weeks later Joe came
back, Joe and Fred and I, and I said, go for it guys. They said, "Well can we
leave the stuff here?" and I said, sure. And we thought Fred
would go out and you know be hired someplace else and
he would bring along the book, and nobody offered him a job. In fact, two months after
that McGraw Hill fired him. So now we had three of us and this book, in which at that point there was probably about close to half a
million dollars invested and nowhere to go.
And so long story short we went round for two and a half, three years. We self-funded by taking
mortgages on our houses. We lived off our wives– (Nelda laughs) Jean, Nola and Margaret. And we tried to get somebody interested. And meanwhile, we kept
moving forward on the book, getting more and more in
and nobody really was. We got turned down more times… I felt like I was an actor
in a Broadway theater. I was auditioning and
auditioning and auditioning and getting, no, no, no, no. And so finally, about three years into this process, we went for a holiday
lunch at the Century Club, and Joe said, "Fred, I've
been thinking about this. "We're gonna have to do it ourselves." And Fred said, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Well, we're
just gonna have to start "a publishing company." And Fred came from a long
line of Dutch publishers and he said, " (Indistinct) Publishing
company with one book." And Joe said, "Oh, there's dozens of
books that we can publish. "Bob and I'll give you a list." And we went back to his
house and we made a list of the books that he
thought should be published, a bunch of his and some other people, and we formed a publishing company, and we couldn't get anybody
to distribute the book.
And so after another year, we got a call from San Francisco saying, "We want to distribute for you." And that was the beginning
of a publishing company that we grew from this idea of one book. We went from zero to about
$5,000,000 in annual revenue within four years and we were
cooking along really well. Meantime in the midst
of all of this, you know we'd gotten Joe and Bill Moyers together to agree to do some conversations. Whenever Joe came in from Hawaii. He had moved to Hawaii at that point I was operating out of his
apartment mostly in New York. And we got them together when they landed on the West Coast and
George Lucas kindly gave us Skywalker Ranch and they
filmed these conversations. And this went on for another couple years. – Now before then if I may, before then he was not known, right? Really until Moyers– – Not really. He had a small following. He hadn't published a book since 1970. He had more of a following
on the West Coast than the East Coast. On the East Coast there
was a certain disdain for the idea of a public intellectual, which is how he, you know he wasn't writing for the academy, he wanted to write for the general reader.
So out of the blue all of a sudden Fred van der Marck's wife died. And he just said,
"That's it, I've had it." And six days later Joe Campbell died. And so Fred was dysfunctional. We buried them both. And then I said about trying to sell this half completed opus. And again I got turned
down and turned down and turned down. Meanwhile Bill Moyers on his own, had come back to PBS and
took the production fund and was editing his conversations with Joe and announced to PBS that he was going to do a six part series with an 80 year old mythologist. And he got the response,
"Oh, that's really sexy TV. "And that's really gonna
bring in a younger audience.
"Isn't it?" (Nelda laughs) Long story short, in the beginning only three PBS stations picked up the series and then each week it would be what we'd
call a graduated rollout. More people heard about
it, more buzz started, more stations picked it up and overnight Campbell became a name. I walked down Broadway and there used to
be a big Barnes and Noble, and there was a folding table that they'd pulled out onto the sidewalk.
And there was a hand
lettered sign that said, "Mythology." And they pulled anything they
could find from the shelves that they felt had anything to do with it and they'd
stacked it on this table. And suddenly all these publishers
that had turned us down, wanted the book and they wanted in. Meanwhile I was winding
down the publishing company trying to place the books we
had in production elsewhere. But we didn't know that this
phenomenon was going to happen. – [Nelda] Right.
– So it was a complete example of just being pulled by this sense of this is what you
need to do and doing it. Joe was a great example of this. I mean, I look back you know my immediate
analogy from that meeting at the Century Club was Mickey
Rooney and Judy Garland, "Hey, let's do the show. "I got the stage, I got costumes. "Let's start a publishing company." Okay, and then eventually
that led to the foundation. – And people are still discovering his work through those interviews.
I mean because now that things, the technology that we have
and the way they can… And so it's been amazing. So, let's talk about myth. Let's talk about that. Let's talk about, first of
all what is your, you know what is your definition of myth? Because some people are
gonna think something totally different than where
we're gonna to go here. – Most people when they hear
myth say myth is a lie, okay? From Campbell's perspective, myth is another person's religion. It is the fabric of stories
and lessons that lead a person to do or not do whatever they do. So, let's say for a minute
now that you're a Buddhist and I'm a Christian. Well my Christianity is
my faith, it's my belief. But that Buddhism stuff
you're doing, that's a myth. And of course it would
be the other way around. What I like to think about though, to understand it even more, as Campbell would say,
"A myth is a metaphor," meaning you draw upon
something that is real, that you can touch, that is around you.
And you use that as a poet would to talk about something that
you can't otherwise describe, that you can't otherwise
wrap your arm around. So these stories come down to us. They're drawn from the
environment in which they work. A great example is you know, large portions of the world,
the people of the book. Those come out of the Middle
East in a desert culture. And when those stories originally moved to the coast where they don't
know from desert or scarcity, they were without, they were interpreted… I'll give you a good example. In the Christian tradition
Christ is the shepherd. And that's traditionally ideal that the shepherd leads the sheep. But, if you've ever been on
a farm or around a shepherd, shepherds don't lead sheep
they go behind them, okay? And they move them forward
and if a sheep wanders off, they bring them back in. But that whole story, that whole metaphor, that whole myth, if you
don't have that experience doesn't mean anything to you. And so the myths are the fabric, create the warp and the woof
of the fabric of our life.
Either consciously or unconsciously, because we all grow up in that. Again to turn to Campbell,
we have two births. One is the physical birth, and the other is the
birth into our culture. And it's the birth into the
culture where we are wrapped in the myths and the stories, and the traditions of who
we are and prophetically, who we're not. Well, whatever we are we're not the people over on that hillside. – However, let's think about the fact that we have been separated into our cultures. But now things are different. Just talking about the
blue marble photograph and how that changed because
there's no lines drawn on the world. – Well, Campbell felt it
was a real seminal moment. And we just celebrated the
50th anniversary of that. – [Nelda] Yes.
– But ironically, seeing that… Well first of all that image
wasn't released by NASA. It was Stewart Brand who
started Whole Earth Catalog, who started the campaign to
get NASA to release that image. The crazy thing is we
saw it through the eyes of our fellows.
But it really didn't bring us together, it didn't. What has brought us together? Coronavirus, it's the first
thing in my experience, and I would say in contemporary knowledge, where everybody on the planet is facing the same unknown
and there's nobody to blame. Some people tried to call
it the Chinese virus, or this poor woman who was scapegoated as being the one who brought it back here, but there is no other as a result. There's no person who
is not affected by this. So, they say the things
that bring people together, either a common enemy, a common charismatic leader
or some set of beliefs. Well, there is no global
czar of the earth. And we don't share common beliefs.
We are trying to learn
to do that as the people who move in next door come
from a very different place, and I'm neighborly I begin to say, "Oh, they're not so crazy, not so bad." But that hasn't happened globally. What we've been faced with
now is a common enemy, and an enemy about
which we know so little. There's nobody to blame, we're all dealing with
the same phenomenon, and it has paradoxically
brought us together. And you see scientists and
labs in different countries, you see not-for-profit and for-profit.
You see everybody suddenly working to deal with this thing
that has laid us low, that has separated us from each other, even as it's brought us together. So it's a paradox there. – Absolutely, it brings… It's an interesting thing when you think about how quickly we could fly
from one place to the other. And we had plans to be overseas this next year and all of that
came to this screeching halt. Planes are grounded, things are, you know. And it completely… I think it has forced people
to really think about life and how easily we were accessing
other areas of the world. And what that really means, we don't know yet right
now for the future. – [Bob] No we really don't, go ahead. – And as our cultures, I mean we were… It is kind of a collision, is it not? I mean in some ways, as if all of us having to
bring together to the common things that we have
together that we all share, and health being that for
everyone around the globe.
– And it's really shown the disparities and the cracks in our society in general. I mean you and I know
that we have the luxury and the ability to be at
home, to work from home. What about all the people who don't? And what about the people who– – [Nelda] Absolutely. – Go out daily and risk their lives to get us our groceries? And these are the people
who can't not work. And you see it across. I saw lines of people
lined up in Las Vegas, four miles long to get
food supplies, okay. And what I noticed immediately
was this four-mile long row of shiny cars. And why did I notice that? Because just that morning
I'd seen a photograph of ragged individuals lined up in India, to try to get a mango off
the back of this truck. And it was in the context of an article where one person said, "I know I'm risking this. "I know I'm defying the stay at home.
"I'm risking this disease. "But if I don't do this, I'll starve." They weren't in shiny
cars, they were barefoot. And they weren't getting
bags of beef and potatoes. And I don't begrudge anybody that. – [Nelda] Right. – If you have the need, you need to be humble enough
to acknowledge you have need. But the contrast in the two
cultures was shocking to me. And I never would've thought of it. – So in this you know, Campbell talks about the hermit's life. And what has this done
during this virus time? How can we look at our hermit's life, that is staying indoors and not being out? What are some of the benefits of that that we can use this for? – Well, we can do what
hermits do which is meditate. We can sit with the stillness. There's the last line of a
poem by Milton that goes, "They also serve who only stand and wait." That's the hardest thing
because our impulse is fix it.
Mine is do, go, act. And we're being told no. The noble thing is not act. The noble thing like the Dao you know, "The best way to do is to be." Very, very hard to do. And another thing that I think is… We've always thought about, and you know this is
underneath "The Hero's Journey" which is a horse that's
been ridden for many a mile. The hero goes forth from the village into the Forest Adventurous, okay? We can't do that. But we know that the forest is a metaphor. Now, it's a metaphor for the
unknown that you go into.
So, what's our forest now? It's the future and
it's our interior life. So even as we don't go
anywhere or do anything, we're called to an adventure
of self exploration. And it's out of that I believe, that we're entering an unknown future. And hopefully, as it's
always been the case, it's gonna be the artists
who come back with the music and the plays and the films and the images and the sculpture and the art.
It give us a glimpse of what
we're commonly experiencing. That goes beyond the words, you know it goes beyond the stories, beyond the myths as
they've come down to us, certainly beyond what we read in the pages of a dusty old book. So, I think it's fundamentally changed. And we don't know how. We don't know what it's gonna be like. We just know it's not what it was. – From my own personal life with my girls, I have discovered, it's kind
of interesting because I… We call them adventures. There's been a centipede adventure. There's been a millipede adventure, big ones, Texas, large things.
There's been snails. There's been butterflies,
there's been hummingbirds. There's all these different
things that we have come across that have helped us on
really that inward journey and that awareness of really kind of a sacred
space that we're in right now that wasn't there before. – Yeah and that curiosity
and embracing that curiosity with them and looking at the
world through a child's eye, it's an antidote to fear. The hardest thing I think
we have as adults is not… I mean, my kids are in their 30s now, but even then you know, they
call up, "Are you guys okay?" They're grappling with existential fear that they never thought
they were gonna have to.
Certainly with young kids. So, how do you challenge this? How do you not project your fear, but how do you embrace the new experience, the curiosity as you're
doing with your daughters? I know you well enough to know
that this isn't new, okay? – [Nelda] Yes. – This is who you are and
how you relate to them. So it's not like, "Oh my God, mom has become
a different person." No, you're just now sharing it
with them in a different way.
And bravo for that. – [Nelda] Yes. – I can't tell you how many people I know who are suddenly grappling with the fact they're working from home,
their kids are there. How do they juggle all of this? And also how do they keep the curiosity, keep the adventure and
keep it alive for the kids? Even as they're thinking, "I don't know where my next
paycheck is gonna come from." – You know and speaking of that you know, Bob and Joseph Campbell
talked about the thou shalt. I'd like to kind of let our viewers know a little bit about that. I think that's a really interesting thing, especially as you're teaching others too, but also in our own lives. – Well, where that comes
from is in his explication of "The Heroes Journey." So, when the hero leaves the village and goes into this
world of the unexpected. "The Hero's Journey" in
its raw is separation, initiation and return. So the separation from your
quotidian, day-to-day life. And then into a magical
world where you meet helpers and all these other things.
metaphorically in that world, you have to slay the dragon because the dragon has the pearl, the dragon has the thing
you wanna take back. And mind you, were talking metaphor now. But the pearl is the
bourne you bring back, you return to your village with. So Joe says, you try to slay the dragon. And the dragon is covered with scales. And the scales say, thou
shall or thou shall not. Meaning you have to slay
all those expectations that you've put on yourself
and that society's put on you. Those are the myths, okay? To some extent you have to demythologize, you have to let go of all of that. And you fight it. When we're growing up,
you fight the traditions, you fight the laws, you
fight the things there. This is part of being
an adolescent, right? But ultimately, the hero
fights and fights and fights against thou shall and thou shall not until the hero lays down
his sword and surrenders. Meaning, what we were just talking about, goes into themselves and stops
measuring their own adventure against what's out there on
the scales of the dragon.
And then, turns out you
don't slay the dragon. The dragon goes, oh okay I got it. And gives you the pearl. Because you're only fighting
yourself in that battle. You're fighting the… Remember the second womb? You're fighting all of the
things that you learned in that second womb
and that you lived into as a member of a given culture or society. You can try to suppress them, you can try to rail against them. But ultimately you have to say,
"Okay, this is what it was." And you can't get rid of it. There was a book in the sixties called "Programming and Metaprogramming
in the Human Biocomputer." And the takeaway from it was… This is a book by John Lilly. He said, "Just like you can't
get rid of these programs "that are in you, but
you have to metaprogram." So you have to come up
with a story of your own that acknowledges these, honors these and goes beyond them.
You don't just throw
it all out, you can't. Joe says, "If you try to throw it all out, "you are throwing out the dictionary "to the language of the soul," which I think is a great
way to think about it. These are all the ways–
– [Nelda] Absolutely. – This is the language of the soul. And you can't get rid of it but you can take it to another level and a different place. And that's slaying the dragon. And the dragon is the one
with the scales that say, thou shall and thou shalt not. – So, do we have a myth for now? – We've got a lot of them. And I think that's one of the issues, there's collusions of myths. I have a colleague of
longstanding who's always, for years used to say to me, "We have to create the myth of tomorrow." And I would say, no there
isn't a myth of tomorrow. You can't create what
you're gonna dream tonight.
And myths are for the society, like the dream is for the person. What you do is you live
into it, you give it form, which is where the artistic
impulse comes from. You give it form. And if you put it out
there, what's gonna happen is a lot of people are
going to be doing this. And as these things come together, as we share, usually through
shared creative experiences, as well as commonalities. You know we all eat, we
all go to the bathroom, we all you know hope our
kids are gonna be well-off. We have all these common things, but we get caught up in the differences. Once you step beyond that, then I think what you're gonna see, and Campbell suggested this, there's gonna be some common threads. You already cited one of them, Nelda. It's recognition of this fragile,
big blue marble in space. This recognition that on there, there are no boundaries
and objectively looking at it the only tribe that
matters is the human tribe.
That could be one thing. Campbell also says that,
"The myths of tomorrow "are going to have a
common sense of a long arc, "a different sense of time." You know, forget quarterly
reports or annual reports, it's gonna be eons that we've been around. So these are a kind of common touchstones. And we see those too, in
the ecological movement and other things they're
starting to bubble up all over. – I wanted to talk about
the warrior's approach, because I think it's important
that we give some context, some hope maybe to people, as
we're going through all this.
So let me read what Campbell wrote. "The warrior's approach
is to say yes to life, "say yay, to it at all, "participate joyfully in
the sorrows of the world. "We cannot cure the world of sorrows, "but we can choose to live in joy." So how do we live joyfully? We're watching other people in pain, we're watching sorrow and
death and dying going on. But how do we live in that? – It is joyful participation, it is from a Buddhist's perspective, recognizing that all
of the world is sorrow.
And yet that quote too, that was in the middle of
Joe's is the Bodhisattva's vow. Bodhisattva being someone
who's reached enlightenment but decides not to step
over into enlightenment until all beings are enlightened. And so there that's where we
get the joyful participation. But the other thing that I hear… Let me stop here. When I was examining this,
I live in Mexico City now. And so, you know I was reading
and I read an article here about the fact that pandemics are actually not unusual in Mexico City, but the people here today
have forgotten about it. And they went on to talk about 1552 when smallpox came, and smallpox came and it killed 2,000,000. And then 25 years later
there was another pandemic that the Spanish couldn't even name. It killed 18 to 20 million. And then there was a third
one about less than that. And so, this has been a part of
culture that slips out of memory easily and we forget about it. Because, in part, we've given
over our own self-autonomy to gray hairs I mean
figuratively, to leaders, okay? We were talking about
leaders a minute ago.
Present leader aside, it doesn't matter, we're learning that we
can't rely on a leader, we can't rely on the
doctor to know everything, we can't rely on the most
brilliant scientists. We have to circle the problem, you know just like in the theater. Now that if you wanna
isolate a figure in space, you need at least three points of light. You know, (indistinct) the figure doesn't emerge
from the background. We need a multiplicity of
voices looking at this now. And each one of them
has to be the warrior. And in that pandemic, the
pandemics that came through… I'm sorry I don't have it in
front of me and my Spanish isn't good enough. But they said that the only way, the Spanish wrote, "The only way to address what was going on "was the warrior's way." And then they went on
to say, "The warrior," and this is the translation, forgive me, I don't have it in front of me.
"What the warrior does is,
every action is done impeccably, "as if to thumb one's nose at death." So joy comes from the
impeccableness with which you do, whatever it is you're doing. You know, suddenly doing dishes
maybe isn't such a chore. Maybe that's soap bubble
reveals something else. But what you do, you do with
joy but you do it impeccably, you do it to the best of your ability. And then if death comes,
well if death comes, as Mary Oliver says, "I
want to leave this world "knowing that I was the bridesmaid, "that I took life in my arms, "I did things impeccably." And so when you do things impeccably, to the best of your ability, I believe at least this is true
for me, I'm filled with joy. If I'm doing something and judging it. I mean you know how do you paint a picture of every brushstroke you're judging? You don't, you know. You proceed with joy even in the face of the recognition.
It shows us you know the best life is one hero's
adventure after another, after another because it's not just one. And he says, "And you do
that in full knowledge "of the fact that some
of them will be successes "and some of them will be disasters. "But you still act impeccably
and you still go forward." Or in this case, you still go in. – What do you learn from
the disasters, though? You know (laughs) you learn so much and it is, you know it's said so many different ways by so many different people,
but it is really true that the disasters oftentimes
are where you learn the most. You know I think about… I remember one of the
analogies that I read of his was that some people
spend their lives climbing up a ladder only to find that they put it on the
wrong wall, you know? – Yeah, he says that's the
true tragedy and it is.
But that kind of takes
us back to where it began in the sense that what
you do is you let go of what you planned. You plan this whole thing, but you plan it knowing
that it isn't gonna happen and that it might not happen. In my case I think, if I look
back and I look at the people I knew when I was in arts education and they wanted me to get my PhD and continue as an arts educator, and I veered into experimental theater. And I was deep into that on the West Coast I came to the East Coast.
Suddenly I found myself
swept up in Broadway. And just all my friends were going, "Whoa, aren't you lucky?" And I was thinking, how
do I get out of here? (Nelda laughs) How do I get back to my roots? So I go to Savannah and that
gets knocked out underneath me. And if that hadn't gotten
knocked out from underneath me, I never would have met Joe Campbell. – [Nelda] Right. – If I hadn't tried to be of service, if I hadn't tried to serve what I saw as a common need there, which was a simple one,
yeah send me the boxes, I'll keep them, it never would have evolved
into the grand adventure that the publishing company was.
If I hadn't gone with
that and then suffered through the dissolution of
that and having to let go of all of these projects
I'd nurtured for years, and fold this company into
which I had invested everything, including my own living quarters, we never would have had the foundation. None of that would've happened. – And the important part of that is that you could
never see that future.
– [Bob] Yeah. – Yeah. – My late friend Harry Chapin,
in one of his songs Circle, says, "There's no straight
lines make up my life "and all my roads have bends. "There's no clear cut beginning
and so far, no dead end." And that just sings to me about what it is. If you're trying to go
straight and the road bends, you're gonna to fall
off a cliff, you know? And there aren't straight lanes in nature.
They all have bends. And who can say, I'm no different a person now than I was at each of
these times I changed or changed professions
or changed direction. You're no different where you live now than where you lived before. Things around you may change,
but you're you, you know. – Yes, it's interesting 'cause that
goes back to that, right the wheel that he spoke
about living in the wheel of our life versus I
guess the ladders, right? I mean, because it is true. There's lots of movement,
there's lots of change, and things that you never
anticipated happening, you know? And I think that when people
ask me as an individual, you know what taught you the most? It's just when I lost everything. When I lost it all, that's
when I really learned so much about me, you know? And it is sort of an
interesting thing in our lives that we can hopefully choose the hero's journey and path with that, right? – If you're on a heroic path, you have no choice but to say yay.
You have to say yay to what comes at you. Horrible though it may be. I guess in the end, the only tragedy, true tragedy is when you lose yourself, knowing you could lose
yourself to other senses, to addiction, to dementia, to any number of things. But typically, it's trying
to live into somebody's story of who you're supposed to be. And that same thing of
the tragedy of the person who gets to the top of the ladder, my friend and former colleague, Rebecca Armstrong always says, "Look back and see what your
parents wanted you to do, "and that's probably
what you shouldn't do," because they're thinking
of your security, okay? – [Nelda] Yes, absolutely.
– And they're thinking of who you are. I think I shared this in New York, but when we moved to Mexico City, our sons were in their
early 30s and we told them we were moving to Mexico
City and they said, "We need a family meeting. "You guys need an intervention." (Nelda laughs) We had a family meeting and they said, "Have you thought this through? "Are you sure this is
the thing you should do?" All the things that we'd said to them as concerned parents when they grew up, came right back at us, right back at us, you know?
(Nelda laughs) Because love wants to do that. Love wants to hold on to… Wants you to be right and well, but that might not be
where you want you to be. – [Nelda] Oh, absolutely
you know I've got– – That's the scales, isn't it? – (laughs) It so is true. I have one of my four
that is the rock climber, and as she gets older
I look at it and I go, oh, I know where we're headed and I'm gonna have to let
go and let all that happen, because that's her love in so many ways.
Well before we go, although
we could talk for forever. – Good which is one of them delights of being with you, Nelda. (Nelda laughs) I mean I think that when we were together at the table in New York,
I kept watching them. I knew they wanted to turn that table over and we were just as certain
we weren't gonna let them. (Nelda laughing) – It is so true. There are two things I want to talk about, and one is bliss and the other is sacred space. I am in one of my sacred spaces right now, as you and I are talking, and it's a house on the river
that I feel so blessed by, but my bliss here for me is just being able to kind of commune with nature. That is a part of something that feeds my soul and it's part of energy giving for me, if you will. So, what can we leave our
audience with about learning about bliss and learning
about sacred spaces and the importance of them? – Well, I think the
first thing to leave them with is that bliss isn't always great, joyful, and wonderful.
– [Nelda] True. – Following your bliss
can just be hellacious. Because the bliss is the
thing you can't not do. Joe was fond of a passage to
one of the Gnostic gospels, which spoke of the apostles
dancing and singing, and actually the lyrics of
the song are in the gospel as they accompanied
Jesus to the cross, okay? Because he was following his bliss. He was doing what he had to do. You see a preface to that
in the Christian story, where he's in the Garden
of Gethsemane and says, "Don't make me drink this cup." But he has to do it. He's willing to sacrifice himself for the thing that he has to do. That's bliss, but boy that
isn't joyful and bubbly and all wonderful which is unfortunately how that aphorism of Joseph's come down because it's been taken out of the context of the Hinduism from which it came, whereby bliss is the way to enlightenment.
It's to your true self. That's one of the three ways. So bliss is there, but to segue, and I think it was really sweet of you to put these two things together 'cause I think it's important
and that's sacred space. Sacred space, it could be a physical space. It's great if it is a physical space, or if it is nature or a particular tree you wanna sit under, but it's the place where you step outside of all of the demands of your day to day. And that's where you go to
get in touch with your bliss. Artists who have a studio,
dancers have a studio, maybe the musician has a practice room, but I'll give you an example too that's very immediate to me.
We have some wonderful
downstairs neighbors who have befriended us and
made us feel right at home. They have two kids. By the way it turns out
that their eight year old is just a mythology nut, and when their relatives googled me, and I don't speak enough
Spanish so I have a great friend here who is a mythologist
and invited them to dinner, and this eight year olds
just knocked his socks off.
But their daughter came up the other day, and she's learning English,
she's halting at it. She's I would say maybe
12 in that neighborhood. And she gave us a little
sheet of paper, and she said, "My school assignment
that I'm working on now "is spreading joy, "and spreading joy in
the face at the pain." And she said, "So what I'm
gonna do is every day this week "at five o'clock I'm gonna
go out on my little veranda, "which overlooks this courtyard
where they parked cars, "and I'm going to play music.
"And I'm going to play my violin." And she went through the building, and she gave us the program
of what she was gonna do each day at five. And they're short pieces. And she's not some Chinese, she's very good but she's
not Chinese virtuoso. You could see the reaching out to
everybody in the building, first of all was nervous making enough. But then she does this
stuff, and sure enough, the first day she played, people came out on their little balconies all up and down inside this courtyard.
And she played two little pieces
at the end of which notes, of course is a bravo and bravissimo, and everybody was applauding. It was much like the
footage we see of people in Italy or Spain coming out at a certain
day and applauding, or applauding the service workers, which they do in New York. We were all applauding her
because she was bringing joy, and she was bringing joy by
doing this thing that was close to her and offering it up to all of us.
And it brought all of us together in a way that I've never seen and it continues. We still have two more days of music. (Nelda laughing) But that's an example
of using your own bliss to be of service to the community. And it is for me through
those creative impulses that that happens. – [Nelda] That's beautiful. – So find a place, to speak to the people who are listening to this, find a place where
you feel totally yourself, and go there periodically. Find out what you like
to do, do more of it. Do it with joy, do it with
joy in the face of the pain that's all around you knowing
you can't get rid of the pain, but you can, as our young
neighbor does, you can spread joy. – That is so true, that is so true. Bob, thank you for being with me. – No, my pleasure anytime.
(Nelda laughing) Even without the margaritas,
it's still a joy. (Nelda laughs) – And audience, thank you guys. You know the drill, we'd love for you to like and subscribe and turn on your notifications.
We have future episodes with other people that we'll be interviewing. And Bob, is there anything
else you'd like to leave the audience with? – No, simply stay safe, stay healthy, stay strong and be yourself. – Thank you, thank you very much. And where can people find your work? – Yeah, JCF for Joseph
Campbell Foundation, jcf.org there's lots of treasures there. There's lots of Campbell
and other things there. – Okay, we will certainly
put that up for them.
Alright, thank you so much. (gentle music).