So my friend Gary Suto is very into social networking and such like, being among other things, hooked up with the NY Mythology Meetup Group, which is intended for Mythologically-minded New Yorkers (Pagan and Non). Thus it was that Tuesday night I found myself with him uptown at Symphony Space, at the premiere of a fantastic new film (no, wait- let me redo that) a FANTASTIC new film by Patrick Takaya Solomon, called Finding Joe. The thing that makes the movie so fantastic is that the “Joe” of the title is Joseph Campbell, and what Mr. Solomon calls “finding” him is the act of awakening to the Mythic in our lives. (The event was sponsored by the Joseph Campbell Foundation, which is dedicated to continuing Mr. Campbell’s work.)
This is not a film about Mr. Campbell per se, so much as it is about the impact of his ground-breaking work into Archetypal Myth. As such, it features an astonishing array of individuals discussing Mr. Campbell’s work and how his identification of such themes as “Slaying the Dragon of your fears”; “finding your Path in the woods”; and “following your Bliss” impacted their own lives; these include Deepak Chopra, skateboarding-legend Tony Hawk, surf-legend Laird Hamilton; TV actress Rashida Jones, and rock-legend Mick Fleetwood. Beyond that, the film explores Campbell’s interpretation of Myth as a metaphor for existence, as a narrative for how to live life, as an urge to reach for the transcendent in life, since life acquires a greater meaning when you begin to live it on the Mythic level.
The Archetypal imagery of what Campbell called “the Hero’s Journey” (saying that all human Mythology essentially distills down into this Heroic Narrative) is very well-explored, with its components of “Separation; Initiation; and Return,” its Call to adventure, and its Challenges of Crisis that lead to a greater understanding of Self; this section is brilliantly well-supported with very effective film-clips from The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, The Matrix, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, John Wayne’s The Searchers, and Lord of the Rings. One thing that kind of cracked me up (I have to say this): is there’s this part where Solomon is talking about how lobotomized we tend to be in modern society, so filled-up with cultural junk and mindless consumerism that most of us live completely blinded to any sense of the transcendent in life. The audience (made up of people who will go out in the cold to see an independently produced movie like this) was very appreciative; at the same time, the minute the film was over, easily 65% of them had their little plastic Twitter-boxes (or whatever they are) out, immediately all immersed again in their Internet lives and already lost once again to the Matrix.
Solomon uses kids to “act out” a lot of the Archetypal story-telling (including primarily his own 10-year-old son, whom we met briefly at the Q and A that followed). This doesn’t come off as cutesy-poo at all; indeed, it turns into an effective way to portray Mythological storytelling.
Finding Joe is a total wowzer of a movie, rapturously greeted by its opening-audience (well, the ones not lost in their Smartphone-world, or whatever it is); I’ve felt a glowing blissfulness all day for having that sense of the Mythic recharged. Interestingly, I think Pagans will respond to this film differently than will non-Pagans. We Pagans tend to live with an appreciation of the Mythic that others miss; we tend already to lead Archetypal lives. The impression that I got last night was that the greater part of the non-Pagan audience felt inspired by a glimpse into a new way of looking at life; whereas for Pagans, Finding Joe reaffirms our Pagan life. Gary agreed with me, pointing out that most Pagans have already opted out of any a system of “what you Should and Shouldn’t do” (an insidious roadblock to the pursuit of one’s Bliss); in rejecting conventional religion, we have already joined the “loop of discovery” that comes when you step off the conventional path.
This is a movie passionately inspired by Joseph Campbell’s legacy, and one which I am confident will deeply resonate with any Pagan watching it. It is available on DVD; the Trailer may be seen on YouTube; I can’t recommend it highly enough. The Joseph Campbell Foundation supports the formation of Mythological RoundTables to facilitate discussion of Campbell; Pagans may well find that they wish some sort of similar discussion opportunity after this very moving film. In the hindsight of it, I wish that Gary and I had been more on the ball, and gotten a group of our Gay Guy Pagan Posse-Riders together for the show (or that it was playing more than once), because we could have had a rousing talk afterwards.
Be the Hero of your own Journey, Jugglers; look and live for the Mythic; and follow your Bliss. But we’re Pagans, right? We do that anyway- live for the Mythic.