Tag Archives: Joseph Campbell

No Death; No Fear – Thich Nhat Hanh Was Right

I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life
5 years ago.

I got some of it.  No, I got a lot of it.  But I just couldn’t get how I could face death and not be afraid.  Not my death but the deaths of my parents, the deaths of my brothers, Mike and Bob.

I mourned like everyone does.  Crying, missing them, wishing they hadn’t died, regretting the loss of time — time I should have spent with them when they were alive.  I beat myself up for lost opportunities to tell them how much they meant to me, how much I would miss them.  I’ve lived the last 35 years with regret.

I believed what Joseph Campbell wrote in one of his most widely known works, The Power of Myth.  “All life is loss, loss, loss.”

The loss of my parents and brothers was devastating at an almost cellular level.  But here, this morning, in the cool aftermath of violent thunderstorms, I felt something else, some small pull to another view of loss.

In that instant, everything changed. I learned how time works.

It always seemed to move too fast for me.  This morning I discovered that time is neither fast nor slow.  It’s almost opaque.  The word “linear” no longer applies.  It is as though we are wandering through it.  Past, present and future are all there, in the same moment, even when we don’t recognize them.

When I try to analyze this  new relationship with time (having it, losing it, wasting it), I get anxious.  If I just let go, everything I ever thought I knew about time dissolves.

Each moment feels rich, full, amazing.  Listening to crickets chirp now as they always have and always will.  Watching geese gathering now as they always have and always will.  Seeing the meteors of Perseid, Leonid and all the others falling in the late night sky as they always have and always will.  Loving my family — no matter where they are – as I always have and always will.

It is as though this Universe in which we live and die is gently sharing this tiny but profound thought; the ones who have gone ahead are still here, living within the engine of the universe that keeps rolling before, during and after they left this place we call Earth.

It’s funny because for almost half of my life,  I could not hear the Universe at all, could not understand why people so dear to me had to die. The same Universe that just 2 months ago had to hit me in the forehead with a 2” x 4” now whispers to me and I can hear her.  She offers me comfort.  She lifts a corner of the veil of the infinite – the place we came from, the place we will go and lets me peek underneath.  And I soar into it.

Listening to the roar and the sigh of this place, seeing light and dark in their purest forms, leaving this body, being everywhere and nowhere, all at once, knowing, feeling, being  joy.  My very essence, my soul or spirit, if you will,  joins the stream of all others who were and will be.  My body is no longer along for the ride. Aches, pains, cares, shed like my skin as I rise into the infinite.

I went where Jill Bolte Taylor traveled when she had her stroke – part of everything and everything is part of me.  This is what I saw on my brother Bob’s face at the moment of his death.  Ten years old, grinning, blond hair being ruffled in the wind as he turned to wave good-bye to me then walked over the hill behind our barn in Pine Grove.

I knew when I came back to my body, this chair, this room, this morning…I knew that this is the secret of the universe.

I still know.  This is death; this is life ever after.


Filed under Death & Dying, Life & Death, Love and Marriage, Mysteries

What Really Makes A Christian?

Before you read this post:

I do believe in God – no, not the guy with the beard and the staff who writes down everything I do and intends to make me atone for all of it.  I believe in what Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist’s Way called, “Good Orderly Design” or Benedict de Spinoza wrote, “God is extant in nature.”

I believe that the spirit of the driving force of the universe lives in every heart.  How big or little that spirit is depends on you.

Now, on to my thoughts on God,  religion and…oh yes, Christianity.

It is that time of year… the holidays, when Jesus gets dusted off and put out there as the reason we all spend a ton of money on gifts and good cheer.

It’s also the time of year when people all over the country come crawling out of the woodwork, declaring their “Christianity” and condemning anyone who says otherwise.

Born again Christians, conservative Christians, moderates, bible thumpers and all the noisy Christians in between proclaim their faith at the top of their lungs to anyone who will listen.

You know them.  They’re the ones that tell the rest of us we are going to hell because we don’t believe in the same things they do.

DISCLAIMER:  Not all “Christians” are bad.  I even have some friends who are Christians.  It’s the ones who preach at you one day and try to run over you with their car on the highway the next day that I have trouble with.  They are the ones who think their opinions are facts — the ones who will shout down anything and anybody they disagree with…in the name of the Lord.

They usually show up in church every Sunday then, on the other 6 days live their lives like the hedonistic, selfish folks they are when you scrape off the veneer and look right down into their souls.

They are the ones Garrison Keillor, humorist and author of A Prairie Home Christmas (and about 50 more books) probably had in mind when he said, “Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.”

There are a whole lot of “cars” out there…roaming the streets and offices of this country who think they are going to heaven and you, whoever you are, whatever you believe, are going to hell.

I think Joseph Campbell really had a handle on why Christianity and religions that proclaim themselves to be the one, the chosen, are, how I can put this, wrong.

“Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically,” said Joseph Campbell in his wonderful book, The Power of Myth.  But he adds that religion today is in trouble because it is, “…stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts.”

Campbell had even harsher words for the bible.  “It’s the most over-advertised book in the world. It’s very pretentious to claim it to be the word of God, or accept it as such and perpetuate this tribal mythology, justifying all kinds of violence to people who are not members of the tribe.”

Before you blow a gasket, suspend your conviction that the bible is the “holy word of your God” and I am just another “heathen” and take a look around.  There are hundreds of examples of atrocities committed in the name of God and of a religion, any religion.  Is that really how Christianity wants to be seen?  As the excuse for murder?  Destruction?  Dictatorship?

Campbell sees the bible as, “…a dead weight. It’s pulling us back because it belongs to an earlier period. We can’t break loose and move into a modern theology.”

Maybe that’s what we need to do.  Come up with a new theology, an inclusive theology, one that allows for our differences and celebrates them, builds on them to create a more tolerant, more loving world.  It could just be the world that Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha all envisioned in their philosophies.

Is that too much to ask for this holiday season?


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Filed under Life & Death, Religion