People Who Kick Buts: Joseph Campbell
People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.
- Born on March 26, 1904 ; Passed away on October 30, 1987
- An American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion.
- His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: “Follow your bliss.”.
- Joseph Campbell was born and raised in White Plains, New York in an upper middle class Roman Catholic family. As a child Campbell became fascinated with Native American culture. This led to Campbell’s lifelong passion for myth and to his study of and mapping of the cohesive threads in mythology that appeared to exist among even disparate human cultures.
- In 1921 he graduated from the Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut.
- While at Dartmouth College he studied biology and mathematics, but decided that he preferred the humanities. He transferred to Columbia University, where he received his B.A. in English literature in 1925 and M.A. in Medieval literature in 1927. At Dartmouth he joined Delta Tau Delta. Campbell was also an accomplished athlete, receiving awards in track and field events. For a time, he was among the fastest half-mile runners in the world.
- In 1924 Campbell traveled to Europe with his family. On the ship back, he encountered Jiddu Krishnamurti; they discussed Asian philosophy, sparking in Campbell a life-long interest in Hindu and Indian thought. Following this trip, Campbell ceased to be a practicing Catholic.
- In 1927 Campbell received a fellowship provided by Columbia University to study in Europe. Campbell studied Old French, Provençal and Sanskrit at the University of Paris in France and the University of Munich in Germany. He quickly learned to read and speak French and German, mastering them after only a few months of rigorous study. He remained fluent in these languages for the remainder of his life. (Already fluent in Latin, he would go on to add Japanese to his linguistic palette.)
- Joseph Campbell died at the age of 83 on October 30, 1987 at his home in Honolulu, Hawaii, from complications of esophageal cancer. Before his death he had completed filming the series of interviews with Bill Moyers that would be aired the following spring as The Power of Myth.