“Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.”
There were three friends at unhappy points in their marriages. We talked numerous times about what we should do. In 2003, I am the one who left her marriage. It took me two years of thinking. I was afraid. Finally, I knew.
I took the leap from the lion’s head.
It wasn’t easy — it was frightening. Like many women, I had no credit history. Starting a life again outside of that safe, known world was not easy. Would I survive it? I wasn’t sure. There were difficult years. My daughter watched me struggle to make ends meet, and I did some tough things. In the end though, it is one of the best choices I have ever made.
My two friends stayed in their marriages. In one case, it is easy to see that it was the right decision. In the other, much more difficult because their relationship is now so poor that it is painful. Yet to say my friend should have left his marriage because that is what I did is presumptuous.
We look at others’ lives and judge their decisions through our lens, our experience. Why? It’s human. Knowing different people, traveling to new places, reading and considering new things — all of them help us to grow past our own personal understanding, and develop wisdom.
We must choose a path at many points in our lives, or stand at the fork in the road staring blankly one way and then the other.
To be happy, we cannot look back and dwell on the results of particular choices. It is pointless. Analyze, understand, and learn, yes, of course. Wallow in sorry and self-pity? No.
Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the annual reminder that good things often come from decisions we regret.
In my life, I think back to 1988 when I moved to Seattle, leaving New Orleans behind. It was a long way from home, and I was lonely. I began to worry that I had bitten off more than I could handle financially. The man I had been dating in New Orleans flew out to see me. He proposed; I accepted. I knew almost immediately that I should not have, but I wasn’t willing to admit my mistake. He turned out to be verbally abusive and controlling, and I entered a very dark period in my life.
When I look back at that single decision, it is easy to think that I should have stayed in Seattle. But if I had, none of the rest of my life would have been the same. I went on to get my graduate degree in literature, live in Manhattan, and eventually meet and marry Catherine’s dad. So had I stayed in Seattle, I would not have my daughter, Catherine. None of my life would be the same.
Are the differences as dire as George Bailey’s Bedford Falls? Of course not. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a story, and a story from a period in our film history where good and bad were painted in absolute ways. Isn’t it part of the charm of the film? The strength of the story?
What is the “right” decision? It is different for each of us, and often different depending on points in our lives.
The idea of “only in a leap of faith” brings many things to mind. For the devout, it is faith in their religious beliefs. I do not attend church, but I believe in God. I think that each of us has a divine spark. For me, there is something in my intuition that I see as part of that. The knowing, the confidence in the right thing. For me at the time. For you at the time. The only times that I have made really poor decisions, I failed to listen to that inner voice.
You see the old volume of Shakespeare in the the photograph above? My Grandaddy Fisher used to read it to me when I was very young.
We could talk of Hamlet, and indecision, or Lear and poor decisions. Decisions made or not made devil us all at points in our lives.
Is it simplistic to talk about Indiana Jones or George Bailey? Or about Lear or Hamlet for that matter? Some would say yes. Joseph Campbell would say that there is power in our myths and stories. Each of these stories, whether it’s the Saturday matinee hero Indiana Jones, or Prince Hamlet, or everyman George Bailey, or old King Lear — each of these stories gives us the opportunity to think about decisions and then examine our own lives. In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell talks about the importance of mythology in contemporary lives.
The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers interviews of Joseph Campbell, are truly — well, I think they are amazing.
Moyers interviewed Campbell over the last two summers of Campbell’s life. The interviews were filmed at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. If you have never heard of Campbell or the interview series, you are in for a treat.
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If you are interested in purchasing the DVD set or the companion book, here are links to Amazon, or look for them elsewhere on the web.
|The Power of Myth (25th Anniversary Edition)
25th Anniversary DVD set.
|The Power of MythCompanion book to the interviews.|
Twenty-five years ago, renowned scholar Joseph Campbell sat down with veteran journalist Bill Moyers for a series of interviews that became one of the most enduringly popular programs ever aired on PBS. In dialogues that adroitly span millennia of history and far-flung geography, the two men discuss myths as metaphors for human experience and the path to transcendence, touching on topics as diverse as world religion, heroic figures, and pop culture.
Now featuring newly recorded introductions by Bill Moyers, this series demonstrates that, despite superficial differences between cultures, all stories are humanity’s story.
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