“Cymbal of Peace” by Kevin Obregon
In 1988, PBS debuted Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, a series of conversations between Campbell, a scholar of comparative mythology, and journalist Bill Moyers. The transcripts from those conversations were adapted into the bestselling book The Power of Myth. Of the many themes discussed in the book, one chapter, “Sacrifice and Bliss,” addresses both the impact of the landscape on the individual and the role of the artist in contemporary society. The following words are an excerpt from that conversation; the photographs were taken this weekend on the grounds of what will soon become the La Reunion TX Artist Residency:
MOYERS: You write in The Mythic Image about the center of transformation, the idea of a sacred place where the temporal walls may dissolve to reveal a wonder. What does it mean to have a sacred place?
CAMPBELL: This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.
“Bee Cause” by VET
MOYERS: We have talked about the impact of the landscape on the people. But what about the effect of people on the landscape?
CAMPBELL: People claim the land by creating sacred sites, by mythologizing the animals and plants – they invest the land with spiritual powers. It becomes like a temple, a place for meditation. For example, the Navaho did a marvelous job in mythologizing animals. In the Navaho sand paintings, you see these little animals, each with its own value. Now, these animals are not shown naturalistically. They are stylized. And the stylization refers to their spiritual, not to their merely physical, characteristics.
MOYERS: And the purpose of all this?
CAMPBELL: To claim the land. To turn the land where they lived into a place of spiritual relevance.
MOYERS: Who interprets the divinity inherent in nature for us today? Who are our shamans? Who interprets unseen things for us?
CAMPBELL: It is the function of the artist to do this. The artist is the one who communicates myth for today. But he has to be an artist who understands mythology and humanity and isn’t simply a sociologist with a program for you.