Sunday, November 3, 2013

The stage is always filled with Titans.

"The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expending realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form - all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void." - Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces 
An image, a thought, a dream, really, that fascinates me is that of finding an opening, a hole, in one's bedroom, or living room, or whatever room you find the most safe and secure. This opening is found accidentally, though it's obvious it must have been there all along, and it's clear at the moment you find it that Fate and Destiny have caused you to find it now, of all times. Down it leads to a vast subterranean world, one that is vast beyond belief, occupying space in a seemingly impossible way, somehow almost intersecting but always just avoiding doing so with basements and other excavations you know in your neighborhood. 
It is a deep and dark place until you gaze at it long enough, when it becomes clear that you can see without real problem, as long as you concentrate on doing so. So down you go; perhaps you don't brave the opening physically, but allow your gaze to travel down, down, down into the depths, until your eyes ache and urge you to finally move and head downward into the dark. Or maybe you're the spelunking type, and you kick stones and a plug of mud out of your way and stumble-slide down, craving to explore.
What do you see? I see everything important to me - friends, family, memories, dreams, wishes. This subterranean realm is, of course, your own soul, as deep as you wish it to be, your own personal emotional memory palace that you may never have known you constructed. But you have: every scraped knee; every screaming argument; every hug you wished would never end; every first day at school and last day together; every thundering storm and rayon vert; every warm summer evening with lightning bugs; every empty mailbox you opened hoping to find a certain message; every smile and locked gaze and holiday crowd and smell of diesel and side-aching laugh and broken heart...all of these and more are here, accumulating and building on their own a vast and baroque palace, where you may wander from time to time in dream or memory, your heart soaring here and eyes tearing there.
At times we need to delve into that great manse, searching for the shades that haunt us so as to cast them out and let the light in. We, all of us, have our own pack of Cerberuses, our own Jörmungandr, that roam about the place, ready to set upon us until we face and conquer them. Those struggles are usually painful and often life-long, but sometimes, sometimes, we finally steel ourselves and head into our underworld and wrestle with these monsters, bringing them to ground and sending them off into oblivion...or, perhaps, into their own corner of the memory palace as decoration, now-harmless reminders of past terrors.
At times, I'm sure, many of us have looked back to the past and found heroes there we feel we cannot emulate. The grand stage of history is filled with colorful and powerful figures, each of whom filled a role that seems larger than life in many instances. Like Titans, they strode about the world stage, their wills seemingly irresistible. Yet they all were simply like us, each with their own underworld to tame and bring light into. We are here and now to take our place upon that vast stage, to fulfill our own destinies and bring light into the darkness. There is no need to look for Titans to come and save us; we are the Titans now. The stage is always filled with Titans.

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