Joseph Cambell on Outgrowing Familiar Horizons

Passage by Steve Jurvetson

Passage by Steve Jurvetson

“Whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grade of life, the Call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration — a rite or a moment of spiritual passage, which when complete amounts to a dying and a birth. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand.”

~Joseph Campbell, An Open Life

Campbell has described the hero’s Call as succinctly as “the feeling that there is an adventure” out there for the hero or heroine. I like this passage because it’s easy to forget the dying portion of the rebirth that comes with any change, always looking to the good ahead. This reminds me of the hard work it takes to actually get there.

A Recipe for Life

Image for Beautiful Table Setting

“Even if every dish is done, cooked, and waiting, and you’ve had a moment to sit down and smooth your hair, leave small, simple tasks unfinished. Leave parsley and mint to be picked off their stems. If you’re expecting a guest who likes to cook, hand over a whisk and vinaigrette you’ve started, and instructions to add olive oil. I only ever open the first bottle of wine and otherwise hand bottle opener and bottle to someone one else. I do the same with the bread knife, tasking someone else with slicing the bread, especially if it’s a guest who doesn’t often cook, she will enjoy her exchange with parsley as much as she will enjoy eating what you scatter it over.

There’s great value in being able to say ‘yes’ when people ask if there is anything they can do. By letting people pick herbs or slice bread instead of bringing a salad, you make your kitchen a universe in which you can give completely and ask for help. The more environments with that atmospheric makeup we can find or create, the better.”

~Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

I came across this passage in one of the last chapters of An Everlasting Meal. I love the reminder to make dinner guests a part of the process, consciously leaving your list unfinished and putting the connection gained through combined effort first.

The recipes in this book are secondary. (I mostly skimmed over them.) They’re not an after thought, but they’re also not the point. Learning how to feed ourselves well and intuitively from whatever’s around is the author’s point. The writing is beautifully layered, and it evokes so much more than just cooking and eating.

It reads like a mediation on life.

Giving completely is easier than asking for help, or being prepared to accept help graciously when it’s offered. This seems like one small, but good way to practice in advance.

Image for Dessert, Happy to Serve You

The photos are from Souvla, a modern Greek cafe in Hayes Valley, one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. Their frozen Greek yogurt is the perfect amount of tart, just right, as are the cups it’s served in. They remind me of childhood summers spent in Chicago with my Mom’s big Greek family and every Greek food festival I’ve ever visited. (Whether that’s 100% accurate or not.)