Joseph Campbell: Jan. 15th
I have been reading Joseph Campbell’s book "Baksheesh and Brahman — Indian Journal 1954-1955", his account of his six months traveling India to learn about its religion and mythology. Those of you, who know me well, know that I regard Campbell as a culture guru. Poor Joe did not, however, enjoy India. He was most happy "to get the hell out". His book is filled with insights and observations that reveal that culturally India has changed little since 1955. An offering:
"India is without romance; the sun dries the juices out of the body. At the social clubs the men sat on one side, the women on the other. Indian wives cannot talk of anything except the three K’s: Kirche, Kuche, and Kinder. Women in the Orient represent archetypes and do not have to depend on the radiance of their individual personalities. Furthermore, since marriages are arranged by families, they do not have to pull themselves together to win’ someone. As a result, they seem comparatively secure and uninteresting."
It is true, that most "wives" that we meet of traditional Indian families still only talk about "church, house, and kids". The comment about archetypes was an epiphany to me. In America, we are so used to freedom. We value the right to choose. We value being different or unique. We value our individuality. In India, what is valued is the opposite. In India, you are not accepted for being different; you are accepted for being true to your archetype — wife, husband, son, father, etc. This is what the Ramayana and the Mahabarata teach; what are the archetypes, and how should the archetypes behave. Americans cherish and express fellowship and equality; Indians value reverence, reverence to your own archetype, and to the archetypes of others.
Campbell’s slogan for touring India: "The most interesting and least enjoyable country in the world". Still is.
The funniest line: "I have now seen everything. An ash-smeared yogi lying in a bed, not of nails but of tangled barbed wire" . This is also still true - barbed wire is cheaper than nails, and has more pain per pound