The “Follow Your Bliss” Paradox

I have been thinking long and hard about Joseph Campbell’s life philosophy summed up by the phrase “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 that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open 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.”

Joseph Campbell

I think this is a great starting point to begin to find your own unique path in life. After decades of following that advice to some degree, I began to think about the phrase “follow your bliss” a little bit more in depth after writing about some friends who have been doing that for decades.

The problem that kept popping up in my mind was that there are a whole bunch of people who have much heavier circumstances then mine.

What about the people that are trapped in situations that don’t allow them to follow their bliss, such as domestic abuse, poverty, drug addiction, sexual violence, and so on ? Living as a privileged white male without too many problems, I certainly have the ability to follow my bliss quite a bit more then most people all around the planet. I could probably sell everything I own and travel around the world for a year if I wanted to badly enough

My life is fairly simple at this point so I don’t have to many things keeping me from following my bliss other then myself.

But what about all the other people on the planet that do not have the benefit of having my life?

I like to think that I created my life, and in many ways I have, but there are certain parameters that I work within, including living in a state with high employment and a lot of wonderful natural areas to enjoy. The complexities of any life of course make it impossible to find a one-size-fits-all solution to everyone’s issues.

Well, says the self-help millionaire guru, just think positively and good things will happen and your life will transform! They say this as they make their living off of peoples hopes and dreams.

And I am not so sure a that “following your bliss” can help them.

This is what has been bothering me for the past couple of weeks.

And so I began to wonder: Is there a version of “Follow your bliss” that could apply to all people in all situations?

I don’t believe it is normal to be happy all the time.

Becoming happy usually relies on a combination of factors that include having compassion, feeling gratitude, and experiencing wonder, above all else.

Wonder is an interesting experience.

We experienced wonder in abundance as children. Then we grew up and began to lose that sense of joy and happiness that filled us up when we were young.

Why is that? I think that is because we are beaten into submission by authorities. Authorities destroy our sense of wonder, and we lose our path.

That sense of wonder is the spring from which bliss and contentment flow. We need to find that sense of wonder by getting back on our own unique trail and walking toward it.

So, in a broader sense, instead of “follow your bliss” we could say “walk toward wonder”.

Some people would say that those phrases are indistinguishable from eachother. I beg to differ.

First of all, wonder is neither good nor bad. Wonder arises from life and death and the mystery of the universe — there is no morality at play in the word.

Secondly, it is not our wonder that we are walking toward so much as wonder in general — the wonder of rain, of snow, of mountain tops and antelope horns. Wonder is the nectar of life that is transformed into the honey of happiness.

And thirdly, when we walk, we take agency over our lives. Walking can mean cycling, kayaking, running, or any creative movement that gets us on our own power down the trail.

There is no magic formula to successful walking other then choosing to take one step after another step.

The transformation of walking from a mundane act into an act of wonder is the process of opening up our heart/mind/soul, whatever any of those words mean. But that is really not the point.

The point isn’t to further our own agenda, and become rich and famous. The point is to simply be able to give thanks to this world and all of its inhabitants so that we can experience the wonder of being alive without any preconditions, such as money or power.

Misery is extinguishing the wonder. Happiness is kindling it.


Walk Toward Wonder.

Words are Code - "Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." - Rumi