Follow Your Bliss? Really?

by mkriegh

I think it was Joseph Campbell who popularized this piece of advice. Do what you love to do. The rest will take care of itself. I have to wonder though. I know a lot of people, myself included, who struggle to follow their bliss, largely because the world demands that we monetize what we spend our time on. We have to pay our bills, buy food, put a roof over our heads, etc. The vast majority of the world seems to take up ways of monetizing their time that don’t have much to do with their bliss.

I have a book on how to read photographs that uses the masters of the art to show you what a photograph with content looks like. I was struck by the fact that so many of the photographers used as examples had day jobs. Following their bliss didn’t seem to have much to do with making a living.

I am pretty sure that some people do get to follow their bliss and make money at it too. But I am not sure I can say I have been one of them. I thought my bliss was architecture, but I am pretty sure that it is not after all these years. I am much more interested in photography, cooking, philosophizing. I have been interested in them since childhood. I thought architecture would combine all those things together and it did for a while. During school, for sometime after school. But the realities of construction projects and business take a lot of the bliss out of it. If I have a regret, its that I didn’t try to directly seize my bliss. I did it indirectly. Bliss is not amenable to indirect seizing. You have to grab it by the throat I think.

I follow a young photographer’s blog, Leanne Cole. She posts demos of how to edit photos in photoshop. I love her photography and the spirit of her giving through her blog. Today she confessed that she needed to find a way to monetize it. She is thinking about producing tutorials and selling them through the blog. I think she’d be good at it. Hope she can make some money. She likes teaching, so perhaps there is some bliss involved too.

This is, of course, the way of the universe. Living things have to, well, make a living. We have to eat, drink, avoid the predators, make love, make babies, feed and clothe the babies. Perhaps the babies are the bliss. I don’t know, never had any.

The truth is, I think, the potential for bliss lies in what you value. We live in a society that is, in my opinion, bent on distracting us from what we truly value. Its one big venal food chain that sucks you in when you are young and, if it doesn’t kill you along the way, excretes you when you are old. You hardly have time or opportunity to notice what it is you truly value and follow it. I have to believe there is purpose to our minds, though that it is anything other than survival is denied by neuroscientists these days. What is bliss for in their view? It would have to be an adaptive behavioral thing. Something that enhances our survival rate, and more importantly, the survival rate of our children. I suspect that is why sex is so wonderful. Blissful even. I may be on to something here, Edward Weston didn’t make a fortune in his life time but he sure had a bunch of beautiful mistresses and a handful of children. And he did what he loved to do. I know ladies, this is not the model you want to see us men pursue. Sigh, bliss is a challenging thing.