Incursions of the Unknown

Bert: You also mentioned another aspect of this "calling," the element of risk. Aside from biology and social conditioning, that our finding our "calling" may entail embracing the risks we encounter as we live in the world. In our society we seem to want to protect ourselves from risks.

Hillman: I learned something from Malidoma Somé. He brought up one time how amazed he was with the idea of insurance in our world, that when some peculiar thing happens, we don’t think of "the invisibles" or fate or destiny, or meaning, or what could be going on. We think, instead, of calling the insurance adjuster. We think of making a claim. We don’t think that we’ve been visited by "the invisibles," but that this may even be a chance to make a little money.

Insurance insures us against the "invisible" world. That’s a remarkable thing. I think Malidoma saw something crucial. Insurance is really a giant umbrella against the incursions of the unexpected.

Bert: As you talk of character and risk, the image that comes to my mind is that of Joseph Campbell, "Follow your bliss."

Hillman: Aha! Of course, Michael Meade has made it clear that doesn’t just mean going through life smiling like Forrest Gump and eating chocolates. Meade points this out by pointing to a passage from Campbell that has to do with passion and adventure. You don’t know what you’re going to get into when you follow your bliss.

That’s what we’ve lost in our culture now. We’re an "air bag" society that wants guarantees on everything that we buy. We want to be able to take everything back and get another one. We want a 401-k plan, and Social Security. The whole arrangement of our life is built against the incursions of the unknown into our life.

Bert: And it’s the incursions of the unknown in our life that create the magic, fuel our passions.

Hillman: They challenge us, too, and in that sense keep us alive.

Bert: Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem: "Our role in life is to be decisively defeated by greater and greater Beings."

Hillman: That’s extraordinary, isn’t it? And youth won’t bear this kind of dull thing, the way we carve out risk-free lives where nothing happens, and of course they become absurdly violent and ritualistic. Because something else must be given to youth.

[James Hillman]
with Bert H. Hoff
Online interview, you can find it here
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