Joseph Campbell’s Bliss Dance

In the beautiful words of Joseph Campbell

“Ask an artist what his picture “means,” and you will not soon ask such a question again. Significant images render insights beyond speech, beyond the kinds of meaning speech defines. And if they do not speak to you, that is because you are not ready for them, and words will only serve to make you think you have understood, thus cutting you off altogether. You don’t ask what a dance means, you enjoy it. You don’t ask what the world means, you enjoy it. You don’t ask what you mean, you enjoy yourself; or at least, so you do when you are up to snuff.

But to enjoy the world requires something more than mere good health and good spirits; for this world, as we all now surely know, is horrendous. “All life,” said the Buddha, “is sorrowful”; and so, indeed, it is. Life consuming life: that is the essence of its being, which is forever a becoming. “The world,” said the Buddha, “is an ever-burning fire.” And so it is. And that is what one has to affirm, with a yea! a dance! a knowing, solemn, stately dance of the mystic bliss beyond pain that is at the heart of every mythic rite.”

I have nothing to add, except that I can’t dance in front of the computer. I have blog itis: cramps from sitting too long, and a blank mind.

6 thoughts on “Joseph Campbell’s Bliss Dance

  1. I’m speachless… I’m glad you “enjoyed” my poem… You are so right with your meaning…. Thank you for noticing it! And please, do stop by more often…

  2. Love that Joseph Campbell; this quote had me thinking of all the dying/resurrecting gods, the divinities who pass between the land of the living and the dead, Kali the creator/destroyer in one–especially today, with the London Underground blown up and another round of terror and suffering and reaction that will undoubtedly make it worse. These archetypes that encompass the whole life and death cycle give a template for living in Buddha’s ‘world of suffering,’ but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to dance…

  3. Yemanja-thanks for the comment. i meant what i wrote.

    Jessamyn- I am pleased to have connected with such a gentle and sage spirit as yours.

  4. My Dear Garnet, I do recall using Mr Campbell’s beautiful words a few months back on my blog and I’m always pleased to find them in the hearts of others, especially during these trying times

    Yemanja – the last thing my mom gave me before I moved to NY was a small playing card type paper with the image of Yemanja or Iemanja (the virgin of the sea) on one side and the prayer (oracion a la reina del Mar) on the other side. I carry it with me every day. Also, My brother’s middle name is Iemanja. And, Mom tries to go down to Uruguay every year on February 2nd to celebrate on the beach with her mai. The word is large yet so small, is it not? In other words – I love your screen name.

  5. Amnesia- i remember telling you how much I loved that quote when I saw it on your blog. Thank you for putting it out there for me to see and share with others.

    It’s nice to have you back commenting, sweetie.

    What a wonderful story about your relation to the name Yemanja, and it’s evocative meaning.

  6. Have you ever explored what Toby Johnson (Gay Spirituality author) has written about Joseph Campbell? Toby was founding editor of White Crane Journal, which always includes an extended quote from Campbell in each issue. Here’s a link to an article about “The Joseph Campbell Connection” to gay spirit, on Toby’s website:

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