“Follow your bliss: that deep sense of being present, of doing what you absolutely must do to be yourself. If you can hang on to that, you are on the edge of the transcendent already. You may not have any money, hut it doesn’t matter. When I came back from my student years in Germany and Paris, it was three weeks before the Wall Street crash in 1929, and I didn’t have a job for five years. And, fortunately for me, there was no welfare. I had nothing to do but sit in Woodstock and read and figure out where my bliss lay. There I was, on the edge of excitement all the time.
So, what I’ve told my students is this: follow your bliss. You’ll have moments when you’ll experience bliss. And when that goes away, what happens to it? Just stay with it, and there’s more security in that than in finding out where the money is going to come from next year. For years I’ve watched this whole business of young people deciding on their careers. There are only two attitudes: one is to follow your bliss; and the other is to read the projections as to where the money is going to be when you graduate. Well, it changes so fast. This year it’s computer work; next year it’s dentistry, and so on. And no matter what the young person decides, by the time he or she gets going, it will have changed. But if they have found where the center of their real bliss is, they can have that. You may not have money, but you’ll have your bliss.
Your bliss can guide you to that transcendent mystery, because bliss is the welling up of the energy of the transcendent wisdom within you. So when the bliss cuts off, you know that you’ve cut off the welling up; try to find it again. And that will be your Hermes guide, the dog that can follow the invisible trail for you. And that’s the way it is. One works out one’s own myth that way.
You can get some clues from earlier traditions. But they have to be taken as clues. As many a wise man has said, “You can’t wear another person’s hat.” So when people get excited about the Orient and begin putting on turbans and saris, what they’ve gotten caught in is the folk aspect of the wisdom that they need. You’ve got to find the wisdom, not the clothing of it. Through those trappings, the myths of other cultures, you can come to a wisdom that you’ve then got to translate into your own. The whole problem is to turn these mythologies into your own.
Now, in my courses in mythology at Sarah Lawrence, I taught people of practically every religious faith you could think of. Some have a harder time mythologizing than others, but all have been brought up in a myth of some kind. What I’ve found is that any mythic tradition can be translated into your life, if it’s been put into you. And it’s a good thing to hang on to the myth that was put in when you were a child, because it is there whether you want it there or not. What you have to do is translate that myth into its eloquence, not just into the literacy. You have to learn to hear its song.”