Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Treasure In Our Blood


Myth is an attempt to narrate a whole human experience, of which the purpose is too deep, going too deep in the blood and soul, for mental explanation or description. - dh Lawrence
There is a strange contradiction down deep at the base of me. Its always been there, ever since I can remember. A mix of light and dark that always confounded me.
I wrote my first vampire story in the fifth grade in between turns playing foursquare.
At the same time that I was performing in my high school improv comedy troupe, I was writing epic poetry about angels with leather wings who beat the skin off of people so that their true selves could be revealed. (Yeah...I’m not saying it was any good. I’m just saying I did it.) 
When people who know me read my work they usually come back with a similar response. “I was expecting something funny, not something so dark.”
I never understood how I could crave the things that fill my life with joy and laughter, things like Disneyland, but as soon as I put pen to paper all the darkness within me spills out.

(Yes, here’s a random picture of me and my boys just last week enjoying a little twirling teacup action.) 
I’ve always been fascinated by myths. I can remember watching Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth with my parents for the first time. At 12 or 13 I couldn’t absorb it all, but I was happy to sit there, curled up on the couch and listen to him explain things I could only kind of, sort of, grasp, like the difference between that which is eternal and that which everlasting. As I grew older I was thrilled to incorporate mythic structure into my stories. 
But I always kept myself removed from the process. These things - the hero’s journey, transformation, rebirth - these were all just thrilling story points. Not something that illuminated anything in my plain ol' life.
Then one day, only a few weeks ago actually, I was watching The Power of Myth again for the umpteenth time, and I heard this:
“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”
And this time I got it. I didn’t just understand it. I got it.
When I write I send my characters down into that abyss. I send them down there - into that pit where they stumble and bleed - so that I can go with them. Because down there is where we find ourselves. Where you spill your blood is where your real life begins. 
And when we emerge - and the emergence, to me, is the most important part, the reason why I believe in happily ever afters, without the emergence the story doesn't feel true - we have earned the right to know bliss. 
“Furthermore, we have not even risk the journey alone; for the heroes if all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existance; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” - Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces


Juliet Blackwell said...

I LOVE the story about the angels beating the skin off people! Mind if I steal it?

Carol said...

I forgot about him, I was probably the same age, maybe a tad older, I had the book but I think it's long gone. Thank you for reminding me about him, I feel like a warrior these days, I'll get him out of the library for a little moral support!

Sophie Littlefield said...

damn adrienne, you are smart! I go right to the abyss with you.

Martha Flynn said...

Get it line, Sophie!

L.G.C. Smith said...

Oh, Adrienne. This is powerful and lovely. I can't wait to read your book.

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