“Follow your bliss.
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
Stories are my bliss. More specifically, the act of telling a story. When I was 15 years old, I appeared as Don Pedro in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. My initiation into theatre (live storytelling!) unearthed a desire that had been with me since before I can consciously remember – the desire to be heard and understood. To be felt. To be connected. To create empathy.
Empathy, it turns out, is the key to storytelling. Whether it was the mythology of old, spoken through flickering flames around a tribal campfire, or a big-budget Marvel movie exploding across a silver screen, these stories share common, universal qualities. We love a good story, because we can’t help but be caught up in the adventures of “the other” (who, it turns out, is not so unlike ourselves). By telling stories, we find ourselves.
I was reminded about Campbell and his description of “The Hero’s Journey” by someone I met today. He shared many powerful ideas with me, including a link to this video, produced by The Future of Storytelling. If ever I doubted the impact of story . . . no more:
What amazed me most about this video is the scientific proof of just how powerfully storytelling impacts our minds, our actual brains and neurochemistry, profoundly influencing our choices and motivations. When I hear successful artists describe their “origin stories”, there is always a personal memory or formative experience spearheading their creative life (a school play, a wise mentor, the day the circus came to town, reading Huckleberry Finn, and so on). These artists (who can belong to any profession or calling) tell stories not because they simply decided to; they were compelled to follow their bliss. And individuals I know who are unhappy with their career choices, or the pattern of their lives (and I still find myself there, more often than I’d like) . . . perhaps they haven’t recognized the power of story in their lives. Their story.
I don’t fully understand my potential as a storyteller, but I know that the journey will continue. Doors will open.