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Intellectual and thinker Joseph Campbell has emerged as an American icon who, as Newsweek points out, has been embraced by popular culture too. His views on life and the role of myth in shaping our cultural identities and destinies are incredibly insightful. This 1988 book follows an easy Q&A format that allows journalist Bill Moyers to artfully draw out from Campbell his deepest thoughts on the common questions that humankind grapples with when it comes to religion, culture, death and the purpose of life. Here’s a sample of a Q&A from the book, as well as a couple of beautiful lines by Campbell:
Q. What happens when humans destroy the environment ? Destroy their world? Destroy nature and the revelations of nature?
A. They destroy their own nature, too. They kill the song.
‘To see life as a poem and yourself participating in a poem is what myths do for you.”
“Not to see the poem as a vocabulary of words but of acts and adventures. To actively participate in the poetry of life is the purpose of life itself.”
The book also features this lovely extract of Chief Seattle’s words to the United States government about selling indigenous lands. “If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.”
The book is full of profound insights communicated in the simplest of words and the dialogue flows easy never leaving you with anything but a warm sense of positivity about life and its mysteries and the powerful role myths play in forming us and our identities. And all this without creating a need for our identities to seek exclusion, but rather to unite us as citizens of this wonderful planet we call Mother Earth.