It was said that one of Jung’s favorite stories was about that water of life that bubbled up in an artesian well. People came to drink the magic water and were nourished by it. Soon some people began to fence the well, charge admission, claim ownership of the property around it, make elaborate laws as to who could come by the well, put locks on the gates. Soon the well was the property of the powerful and the elite. The water was angry and offended and stopped flowing and began to bubble up in another place. The people who owned the property around the first well were so engrossed in the power systems they didn’t notice that the water had vanished. They continued selling the non existent water, and few people noticed the true power was gone. But some dissatisfied people searched with great courage and found the new artesian well. Soon that well was under the control of the property owners and the same fate overtook it. The spring took itself to yet another place — and this has been going on throughout recorded history. — Robert Johnson, Owning Your Own Shadow
“Following your bliss is not self-indulgent, but vital; your whole physical system knows that this is the way to be alive in this world and the way to give to the world the very best that you have to offer. There IS a track just waiting for each of us and once on it, doors will open that were not open before and would not open for anyone else.” ~ Joseph Campbell
The water of life is on sale everywhere — business, education, religion, psychotherapy, even art. But it’s rarely the real thing. It’s not easy to find. Somehow we have to learn to go within to find the source. We need discernment to tell true from false, to know what is meant for us and what isn’t.
Because we grow up in a world full of distractions and shoddy products pushed by people who just want to make a buck, we have to learn to listen to something inside us that has a purpose for being alive. It’s up to us to recognize that energy force and encourage it in spite of how unlikely and obscure it may appear to others.
Campbell’s idea is that we are made for some things and not others and that the world needs us to give our specific gift. It needs us to give what we are made to give. Finding that “bliss” is not always obvious, though. We discourage ourselves with reasons why it’s impossible. We are tempted to stick with something that takes less courage, something that reveals less of us.
All around us, beings are born, blossom and die. Nature is beautiful because it is always expressing its true nature. Wild plants and animals know by instinct what they are made for. They don’t “spin and toil” in avoidance or doubt as to whether they should or shouldn’t live openly as themselves.
That way is left for humans to wrestle with. We are circumspect. We entertain doubts about our abilities. We wear an inculcated strait-jacket of comparisons and judgments.
It’s almost funny, if it weren’t so tragic, how we keep the brakes on. Those who don’t ask permission to be themselves stand out, but imitating them won’t put us any closer to our own unique nature. We somehow need to listen for the natural spring within. We need to develop a sense of when the water of life is true, when it’s really nourishing and when it’s an illusion some system is selling. We long for true religion, for instance, but often end up buying a cheap imitation.
I write about this because I’m remembering all the ways I tried that taught me the lesson of one more thing not meant for me. I had somehow gotten knocked off center when I was young and was disconnected from my instincts. I see now that over the years I inched closer and closer to my truest energies, and will probably keep moving in that direction the remainder of my time on Earth.
We are given a prodigious home on this planet, if we can learn how to be fully ourselves, if we can learn to grow without fear. Each of us bears a gift for this life, if we can affirm it. The courage to be true is what is required now.
Humans are innately creative. That creative energy can fashion a beautifully balanced world if we can recognize and live it out. This is the question we are being asked to answer now.
- Anima Fire is my publication