If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you
ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that,
you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and
they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be
afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to
be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t
have opened for anyone else.
– Joseph Campbell
[bliss: noun, a state of extreme happiness]
A small voice inside me wants to add “except if you are physically, intellectually, emotionally or mentally lacking the fundamental ability to achieve your goal.”
Can a person who has no talent for painting follow his bliss into a life of painting, for example? Perhaps yes. Some styles of painting seem to be so simple that a child in primary grades could do them.
Is that possible? Yes. Within each brain is the ability to do something far better than most others. Savants are geniuses in one particular field, while being considered retarded in most others. A painter with no talent for painting in conventional styles may invent a new genre which would make him a creative genius of painting.
We really know very little about the brain functions that come into play in creative processes. Science is studying the brain, but scientists may have problems understanding what they learn because they have trouble appreciating what can’t be hypothesized, tested and proven.
Van Gogh either sold only one painting in his life or none, depending on which story you read. By that standard, he died a failure. And he cut off part of his ear out of shame for embarrassing his friend, which makes him an insane failure to some. He also indulged liberally in absinthe, which would make him an addict.
Yet van Gogh followed his bliss. Failure though he may have been during his lifetime, we now recognize him as one of the great masters of art. During his life, most people thought what he painted was crap. For van Gogh, it was his world.
Music is another field in which a person may get lost and live a good part of a lifetime in a world that many would say doesn’t exist. People who can get “lost in the music” must be mysteries to those who are unable to achieve that state.
Music exists in every culture, in every part of the world. In many of those cultures people enter trance-like states that mimic drug-induced states as their minds leave their immediate surroundings and get folded into the music that becomes a whole separate world for some period of time. This may happen while listening to music or dancing to it.
That blissful state is available to those who only listen to music as well as to those who make it. When your bliss involves music, you will be blissful participating in music at whatever level you choose to make part of your life.
Writers experience a similar phenomenon when they write. They create a world within the scenario they are writing about. To them, the rest of the world disappears like a vapour and reality forms around what their mind produces. Time means nothing. Hunger doesn’t exist. Even a change of ambient temperature from comfortable to extra cold or hot may not be noticed because it plays no role in the created world of the writer’s imagination.
While I can’t speak from personal experience about the world of art, I am abundantly familiar with getting lost in music and writing. I can’t play a musical instrument because of motor problems with my fingers. I would be an excellent conductor (have been on a few notable occasions) except that I must memorize the score because I can’t read as fast as the music must go. But I can listen to and enjoy music with the best of them.
I can also say with some confidence that I can write. This may seem like a small accomplishment, but 20 years ago I was functionally illiterate, barely able to either read or write.
While my reading improved over many years of practice, my writing only improved when in 1999 I found myself with something profound to say, a message to deliver to the world. Since writing my first book I have written on hundreds of topics, each time taking me into a world of that subject as I lose track of anything happening in the “other world.”
Can you follow your bliss? Definitely. Will doors magically open for you, as Joseph Campbell said? Amazingly, they do. Is it easy? Nothing worthwhile is.
When what you are doing is your bliss, hard work is part of the living of that special life that no one else understands but you. Others may appreciate it if they have had similar experiences, but they will never understand it the way you do yourself.
Following your bliss you are always alone, but never lonely. It’s like being surrounded by love. Maybe you can express some of that love in painting, in music or in writing, or maybe it’s just your special place alone. When you are there, your brain cooperates by splashing you with dopamine, its own special feel-good drug.
It’s an addiction when you learn to use it. But one without a hangover or come-down period afterward. No one knows why or how those special doors open to you. Some attribute it to a higher power than us. Those of us with the ability to experience that bliss won’t discover the source of the door opening because that requires us to alienate ourselves from the very thing that makes us whole and worthwhile in order to study it.
So, like many important things in life, bliss remains a mystery.
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how parents and grandparents can guide children so that they can experience the bliss of life rather then the drudgery and fear that most adults live with daily.
Learn more at http://billallin.com