From the French short film,  Le Ballon rouge, 1956
From the French short film, Le Ballon Rouge, 1956

“Follow your bliss.”

“Follow your bliss” is Joe Campbell’s motto and mantra. As defined in Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary,  (always an amusing, often provocative reference),  Bliss is “The highest degree of happiness; blessedness; felicity; used of felicity in general, when of an exalted kind, but appropriately, of heavenly joys.”

But what happens if you have lost your bliss? How can you rekindle it? Joseph Campbell, the  world-famous mythologist,  believes you can jump-start it in two  easy steps.

Here they are, in his own words -

1) Find a Sacred Place

The sacred place “is an absolute necessity for anybody today, You must have a room , or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is a place of creative incubation. At first, you might find that nothing happens there.  But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

2) Read A Book Or Hear A Song You Loved

“Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older,” Campbell says,”  the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you.”

“Where is your bliss station? You have to try and find it. Get a phonograph and put on the music that you really love, even if it’s corny music that nobody else respects. Or get the book you like to read. In your sacred place you get the “thou” feeling of life that these people  (the ancient hunters) had for the whole world  in which they lived.”

As for the challenges and psychic sufferings in life? “Find a place inside where there is joy, “Campbell writes, “and the joy will burn out the pain.”

Proof of Concept

I followed Campbell’s advice on rediscovering  bliss through books.  I went back and reread the two books that gave me “bliss” early in life. The first was The Agony and The Ecstasy a biographical novel of the life of Michelangelo by Irving Stone. I read the book when I was nine. The second was My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin . I was twelve when I read it. Both were about artists.

When I look back on my life, there is no question those two books, (ordered through  my family’s subscription to the Book Of The Month Club - remember that club?) had everything to do with my  own journey in helping film-makers cultivate their voice and their art.

As for songs,  I took  Campbell’s suggestion,  veering toward  the “corny music that nobody else respects.” That was the work of The Carpenters.  For me, it was magic. There is such a captivating and haunting tone in Karen Carpenter’s voice.

I hope this spring, in a time of transition, you find the time to check out the literature and music that pointed you to the person you are today. It may open a lens to your inner self which has been obscured by the rigors of time.

Note: The quotes were taken from the book, The Power Of Myth, a redaction of the legendary conversations between Bill Moyers and Joe Campbell from the 1980s.

Group Portrait of American Male Teenagers, 2013,

Group Portrait of American Male Teenagers, 2013

Jesus’ twelve disciples were probably young, almost all under the age of eighteen and some as young as 15. All were most likely bachelors, but for one.

There is no indicator  in Scripture of a specific age for any disciple. So we look through the lens of historical context as well as  clues derived from Scripture.

In the time of Jesus, a Jewish man received a wife after the age of 18. Peter was the only one known to  have been married. In Matthew 8:14-15,  we learn that Peter had a wife when Jesus healed his mother-in-law. Again, Scripturally, no other disciples’ wives are mentioned.

Education Of That Time

Why are we to assume Jesus’ disciples were so young? The tradition of education of that time indicates it.

Education for the Jewish child concluded at the age of 15.

For those  bright (or wealthy) enough, higher education consisted of studying under a local rabbi. If they  didn’t find a rabbi that accepted them as a student (much like a college entrance application), then they entered the workforce by their mid teens. In most cases, they apprenticed under their fathers and worked for the prosperity of the family.

Most of the disciples were already apprenticing  at their trades as in the case of disciples, James and John.

A Rabbi At The Age of 30

Historically, a rabbi of that time would begin to take on students at the age of 30. It was at the age of 30 that Jesus, we believe,  began his public ministry.  This also fits in with the rabbinical traditions of the time.

Why was Jesus considered outlandish by the status quo? He was not a rabbi who taught  in the synagogue. He taught by the seashore and from the mountaintop. He was anti-religious. His message was radical. Jesus’ idea of loving everyone, occurred to no one.  Culture was about hate and aggression. Also, Jesus stated  that He  was the Son of God. He claimed that the only way to God was through him. (John 14:6)

The Way

Of course, this posse of  young Jewish guys were not known as “Christians”. Most probably, they were simply students of the Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth. As far as we can ascertain from the book of Acts, the  early Jesus movement was known as “The Way”  (Acts 9:2; Acts 24:14) .The name “Christianity” did not occur until Antioch, several years after Jesus’ resurrection. (Acts 11:27)

Unlike the cinematic  portrayals  of the past  and even in the latest TV miniseries, The Bible airing now , the disciples were  probably not middle-aged men. Not only is it against the historical times but flies in the face of Scripture. The only one who might have been older, other than Peter,  was Matthew. He had a profession as a tax collector.

Here are a few youth indicators from Scripture”:

The use of the term “little ones”

In Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21, and John 13:33, Jesus calls his disciples little children, “little ones”. This would be a bit insulting if they were men, no matter how radical or gentle the rabbi!

James and John

These guys were brothers. They had a pushy mom named Salome who wanted to arrange where they would sit with Jesus at the table. Salome’s  pushiness wouldn’t make sense if  the brothers were grown men.(Matthew 20:20-24). Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”as they were probably either loud or bold, characteristics in youth.

Only Peter Is Known to Have been Paid the Temple Tax

In Exodus 30:14-15, Jewish law states that every male over the age of 20 is to pay a half-shekel as a census offering when they visit the temple of God. In Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus instructs Peter to “fish up” this tax. And to find a four-drachma in the mouth of the fish he catches; enough to pay the tax for two men, himself and Jesus. Jesus requests this only for Peter and for Jesus. You could conclude that the others were underage and did not need to pay.

“Young Guns”

Teenagers have always been a key component in movie attendance.  Today, the physical movie theatre is still a principal destination for teenagers: largely because they can meet friends there, date, hang, etc. While a movie executive in the 80s and 90s, I was  always looking for ways to make stories “younger”. An ensemble film, Young Guns, featured  a retelling of “Billy the Kid” with a very youthful cast. It   had been hugely popular when it was released in 1988.  Indeed, we may have had a “Young Guns”  cast with the disciples. It was always there.

A youthful discipleship doesn’t  change the  Truth of  the Gospel.

It simply adds a  different tonality to its music.