Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Campbell’

Father’s Day 2017

My daughter can play me like a fiddle.

She knows how to push the right buttons that make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

But I don’t mind. Because, on the day that she emerged from her mother’s womb and I cut the umbilical cord to, literally and figuratively, set her free, I learned the true meaning of the word commitment.

I’ve heard the mythologist Joseph Campbell observe that once we give birth and raise our offspring until the point where they become self-sufficient, our lives are no longer necessary. At least, as far as nature is concerned.

My daughter and I are on the verge of that moment. So, I don’t mind her manipulating my emotions. In fact, I’m enjoying it.

5 Years Later

Five years ago this weekend, we lost my father, Earl N. Brindle, just a few days shy of his 87th birthday. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how he’s influenced my life.

When Dad was a boy, some kid threw a rock which hit my father in the head and all but blinded him. From that day forward, he had to wear glasses with lenses as thick as Coke bottle bottles and his dream of becoming a pilot was ended. Dad didn’t complain about it. He just “made the best of it.”

My father was in the insurance business but he wasn’t a hard-sell kind of guy. Dad was a little ahead of his time because his approach was what would be described today as “consultative”. Of course, he wanted to do a good job for his company but he felt that the best way to accomplish that was by doing what was right for his customer. It wasn’t uncommon while I was growing up to have the phone ring at midnight or 2AM with someone calling to say that they had been in an accident or that there’d been a fire at their home. When that happened, Dad would help them through it and make sure that his customer got what they were owed from the insurance company.

Dad wasn’t really a social kind of guy. He was friendly, amusing and a good conversationalist in a social setting when he had to be. But my sense is that he was somewhat of a loner and, given the choice, would have avoided social scenes. Nevertheless, Dad was generous with his time and several people became his clients when he stopped to give them a helping hand with a flat tire or some other car problem.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to notice similarities between myself and my father. Our body types are more alike than I’d once thought. I like learning new things and sharing information with others that might help them to increase their understanding or improve their life. Although perceived by some to be an outgoing socializer, my nature is to be somewhat of a loner. At home, I’m not handy. Neither was he. But I know it and hire experts. He tried to do it himself. Then we brought in the experts!

At Dad’s funeral, I had an aversion to looking at his corpse lying in state. My mind went heavily into left-brain analytical mode. People were observing the usual “He looks at peace” or “He looks like himself” but my reaction was different. To me, the body wasn’t my father but his transportation vehicle, his “animal”. It was a lifeless husk which had lost much of his physical vitality and, in my mind, betrayed him as our physical bodies do to all of us if we live long enough.

In my eulogy, I spoke about my belief in something the mythologist, Joseph Campbell addressed. Campbell used the analogy of the human soul, our spirit, being like the energy of the light in a light bulb. When the bulb burns out, the light’s energy doesn’t go away. The energy moves back into the ecology of the universe ( “the body electric” ?) until it transforms again into another physical state. I believe that my father’s lifeforce (spirit?, soul ?) evacuated the degenerating husk that was his physical human body like the light from a bulb but still exists within the universe. As John Lennon wrote, “We all shine on.”

My mother had been mythologizing Dad for my brother, Alan and me ever since we were kids. In Mom’s eyes, he was perfect in every way. And my father was a terrific role model: self-educated, intellectually curious, ethical, compassionate, generous, friendly, self-deprecating, great sense of humor, civic-minded, concerned citizen, loyal & devoted husband, interested & involved parent, honest, reliable, trustworthy, helpful, courteous, kind, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. A solid, upstanding role model. As the first born son of a role model like this, it’s not a total surprise to me why I’ve had a problem with authority figures all my life!

Over the past few years, I find myself having conversations with my father especially during my morning walks. He doesn’t talk back but I do, in some way, feel his presence. He’s also been showing up as a participant in my dreams a lot more frequently. I’ll wake up and have to remind myself that Dad’s no longer “here”. I’m not sure what that means but were I to visit a psychoanalyst I’m sure that they’d have a field day with that information.

Dad grew up during The Great Depression. He would have easily done well in college but his parents were poor and couldn’t afford to send him. So, he did his best, served his country during World War II, worked hard, provided for his family, weathered adversity, and lived a productive, honorable life. We Baby Boomers may feel like we’ve been having a tough time during these past five years but my father and most others of his generation lived through and survived during much tougher times. Somehow, they made it through and managed to thrive. Rather than whining and bemoaning our losses, we need to learn from their example, do what’s best for our country and humanity, and get on with our lives.

Through his actions and his words, Earl N. Brindle taught me about being a generous and compassionate friend and neighbor, about being a trustworthy and equal partner in marriage, about being a good parent and about being focused on getting the job done right. I’m still his work in progress.