Sunday, September 30, 2007

How to Avoid Being Crushed by the Wheel of Fortune

No, I do not speak of Pat Sajak and Vanna White's game show. Though anyone who's seen the face of someone who spins the wheel when they know the puzzle just to earn a little more cash and lands on the "Bankrupt" space has seen the dark side of betting on the wheel of fortune.

I'd like to explore another of Joseph Campbell's teachings on bliss, further refining what it means to him and to this blogger.

From the interview between Bill Moyers and Campbell:
Moyers: What happens when you follow your bliss?

Campbell: You come to bliss. In the Middle Ages, a favorite image that occurs in many, many contexts is the wheel of fortune. There's the hub of the wheel, and there is the revolving rim of the wheel. For example, if you are attached to the rim of the wheel of fortune, you will be either above going down or at the bottom coming up. But if you are at the hub, you are in the same place all the time. That is the sense of the marriage vow--I take you in health or sickness, in wealth or poverty: going up or going down. But I take you as my center, and you are my bliss, not the wealth you might bring me, not the social prestige, but you. That is following your bliss.
If you've ever heard Carl Orff's oratorio Carmina Burana (and you have), you can feel the crushing power and chaotic force of the rushing wheel. The Wikipedia entry describes it:
The selection covers a wide range of secular topics, as familiar in the 13th century as they are in the 21st century: the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the ephemeral nature of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust.

So how do you avoid being on the rim of the wheel? How do you find the place of balance, center and spiritual reward?
  1. Don't follow the money. I remember when I entered college, everyone told me to go into computer science, because that's where the money was. While it's true there's money there, I have no aptitude or interest for the subject--and would have been a miserable failure as a computer science major. Definitely no money in being a D (or worse!) computer science student. I've always been employed as a writer, because I have the aptitude and interest and passion for the subject. Do the same and you'll always be able to take care of yourself.
  2. Don't give up because it's hard. If you find what you are meant to do, you will still find that it's hard. So many brick walls exist, but as I wrote last week, they are there to remind you how badly you want something. Remaining in the center of a rolling wheel is not going to be easy, but it will keep you from the chaos of chasing a fickle, fickle fortune.
  3. Don't listen to bad advice. Learn to trust yourself, and then you can begin to figure out which advice will help you, and which is given in bad faith. People riding the rim of the wheel of fortune are often looking for companions, hoping that sheer numbers will prove they are on the right course. When they are on top of the rim, it may appear to be so. However, their moment on top is likely to be fleeting, and being able to recognize a centered person from a fortune seeker is one of the most important skills you can develop.
  4. Don't forget why you want to find and follow your bliss in the first place. Chances are, you feel like something important is missing or lacking in your life. Is that a person, a career, a spiritual need? Whatever it is that you need to take as your center, you have set out on a journey that will help you find greater peace and fulfillment. This journey will be confusing, difficult and at times you may forget why you're torturing yourself. Why can't you just be happy on the couch watching TV like normal people, dammit? Stupid brain. Stupid soul. Stupid need for purpose. It'll be worth it. I promise.
I suppose yelling "C'mon bliss!" doesn't quite have the ring of "Big money!" but once you realize that you'll never again find yourself on the black "bankrupt" space, you probably won't miss the sweaty palms and racing mind as you wait to find out what hand fate will deal you.

Sure, there will still be ups and downs, but you can weather them without getting crushed, without getting dizzy. When the wheel rolls on, you will still know who you are, where you are, and what you want.

C'mon bliss!

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