The Hero in P. Rhea

CAMPBELL: Myths inspire the realization of the possibility of your perfection, the fullness of your strength, and the bringing of solar light into the world. Slaying monsters is slaying the dark things. Myths grab you somewhere down inside. As a boy, you go at it one way, as I did reading my Indian stories. Later on, myths tell you more, and more, and still more. I think that anyone who has ever dealt seriously with religious or mythic ideas will tell you that we learn them as a child on one level, but then many different levels are revealed. Myths are infinite in their revelation.

MOYERS: How do I slay that dragon in me? What’s the journey each of us has to make, what you call “the soul’s high adventure”?

CAMPBELL: My general formula for my students is “Follow your bliss.” Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it.

The Power of Myth, “The Hero’s Adventure”

When I read this passage in The Power of Myth, they struck me down. It hit me as if begging me to let it be my John 3:16, my Preamble, and the foundation of my Mantra. It is exactly what I have been seeking, the description of what I have been trying to metaphorically relate to my friends about what I am searching for – I used the term “lifequest.” But here it is the soul’s high adventure. My heart beat about as fast as it can without making me pass out as I read over it again.

Live the Dream. Follow your Bliss. Solar light. Slaying the dark things. All of these threads are coming together at the perfect time – when in less than two weeks I will be back “on track,” even though I never left the Path. I just got off the train for a while.

It was especially pertinent because this was the first Christmas in which I voluntarily did not participate in communion. I knew I was not going to, having concretely decided to pick up my sentiments and organize them months ago when I read that there was no record of George Washington ever taking communion, and even having denied it on occasion. Of course, although I believe in the Author – Newton’s “clockmaster” – this book, along with inklings in the Ishmael trilogy, has made me think significantly about the importance of a kind of ritual and mythic understanding in my life in a serious way. While my own currents were coalescing around me, I thought of two distinct and important parts of my life that have been described by others, for others, as religion – Alabama football and live concerts.

Football is so popular in the South, not solely for this one reason, but certainly most directly and mythically – the Alabama vs. Washington Rose Bowl game of 1926. Ever since Reconstruction, the South was (and has been) maligned by the economically and influentially dominant North, which was really just fanning whatever flames were left from the Civil War – and prejudice against Southern culture smarted extra-badly when the poverty and ruined infrastructure of the South after Reconstruction was taken into effect. The underdog of Alabama upsetting Washington for the Rose Bowl championship united the entire South in this one thing that they could manage pride for, and the SouthEastern Conference of the NCAA continues that pride to this day. It was that foundation of pride and myth that spawned great import and figures, most notably the coach Bear Bryant and as his symbol the immediately recognizable houndstooth hat he wore, which has become to Alabama fans what red is to Socialists. (Crimson is also like that to Alabama fans). There are ritualistic qualities in a football game, especially one which you attend on a regular basis: it is split into quarters, with music coming at halftime, and the cheers you repeat are designed to get everyone on the same page. “BAMA” shouted by 80,000 people sounds like “Amen” chanted by 100 if you are in the right state of mind. You always hold four fingers up at fourth quarter, because “the fourth quarter is ours.” If you come often enough, you hold season tickets and always sit in the same place – just like sitting in the same pew at church. And as with any established religion, orthodoxy, heterodoxy, and all kinds of arcanities and submyths are built up – legends like the Van Tiffen kick are retold side by side with factions of agreement or anger over the administration’s banning of the Rammer Jammer cheer, which can either be compared to the Council of Nicaea’s state-enforced declaration of the homoousia of Jesus and the Father or the decisions and fallout after the Second Vatican Council. Finally (though not exhaustively), if you switch your allegiance to Auburn not just in heart but in practice, your family and friends will literally undergo the same kind of feelings and actions that are undertaken when a tribe or sect “shuns” its members for heresy or breaking the law of the land. I like Alabama football and Georgia Tech football, but I always thought – and think – my mom screams too loud when we are just watching on TV.

Concerts – shows – gave me more serious thought. Duane Allman once said “Music is my religion, and it never hurt nobody.” Butch Trucks, in defense of his former bandmate, described the Skydog as “Messianic” in his effect on those around him. People wouldn’t make fun of heads for talking about seeing God and the universes colliding while seeing a Grateful Dead show if they didn’t mean it in the first place, psychoatively aided or not. I was raised on the Allman Brothers Band by my mother, which also drove me pretty deeply into the blues I have come to share with Atlanta when I was the host of the Friday Night Fish Fry on WREK. I also, thankfully, had a musical mind that was probably first molded by singing in church, as is the case with many Southerners, Methodists especially. But my true consciousness was not awakened until I saw my first Widespread Panic show at Oak Mountain Amphitheater in the destroyed Medina of Panic shows: Pelham, Alabama. Like the Dead, thousands of young people disillusioned of what their parents had in store for them and empowered by (if not drugs) the sense of freedom they had on the road with their fellow Spreadheads would dance and “worship” at the shrine of Havin’ a Good Time. In fact I do not even know why I put worship in quotation marks. It was worship, of the same type that most any congregation that does not bow before idols participates in around the world in any manner of toungues, names, traditions, and divine aims. It was different every time. The ritual was most founded in the reliable structure of a good show versus the way many acts play their concerts. A Panic show is an hour-long first set, followed by twenty to thirty minutes of setbreak to get your beer on, and then a second set that lasts anywhere between an hour and two hours, followed by the requisite exit before the encore, and always (in those days) at least two encore songs, if not three to cap off a heady three-night run. As in any “respectable” society of worship, what you wore mattered – don’t get caught with official swag, get Shakedown Street T-shirt gear. My favorite was my “Action Man” T-shirt. If you are in tune as you should be, then your emotion will sway with the quality the band is producing. I had seen someone on a message board describe going to shows as their own worship service, but until I read The Power of Myth I never considered it potentially valid. I definitely found something there for me, but not everything I need.

Then, there are finally the ideas that have come to me as a result of the incredible people in AIESEC around the world. These are the ideas that are beating away the faulty parts of me and most effectively encouraging me to reexamine myself and my Mantra. I never knew people consciously and presently living as heroes and legends until I met AIESECers and AIESEC alumni, and now here I am, drawing out the hero in me. Time and trial will bring about my ritual and my own relation to the Myth, and I am confident in my honesty to myself. I will never stop following my Bliss so I can live the ultimate Dream.

Also, I am kind of proud of my picture of my girlfriend enjoying the Hobohookah on Christmas Eve being a part of the Hobohookah holiday greeting.

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Preston

Agent of Change, Former of Entropy, Seeker of a Stateless World.

One thought on “The Hero in P. Rhea”

  1. Have you ever read Paolo Coelho? He wrote The Alchemist, which is my favorite and probably most popular, but all of his books carry a philosophy about “the soul’s high adventure” (though he doesn’t really call it that). I think you might enjoy some of them.

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