Joseph Campbell on Taking the Leap; Armenian Cows and Flash Floods; An Invitation to Share Your Breakfast; Responses to Breaking the Gender Covenant

Sunday, June 30, 2013 - 7:36 am
Joseph Cambell

Joseph Campbell on Taking the Leap; Armenian Cows and Flash Floods; An Invitation to Share Your Breakfast; Responses to Breaking the Gender Covenant

Some wisdom from the late Joseph Campbell to begin:

“A bit of advice
Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.”

As a segue, what popular author do you think said the following in response to being asked about the one writer he could meet, dead or alive?

“Joseph Campbell. His writings on semiotics, comparative religion and mythology (in particular ‘The Power of Myth’ and ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces’) helped inspire the framework on which I built my character… The PBS interview series with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers was hands down the most thought-provoking conversation I’ve ever witnessed. Campbell’s breadth of knowledge about the origins of religious belief enabled him to respond with clarity and logic to some very challenging questions about contradictions inherent in faith, religion, and scripture. I remember admiring Campbell’s matter-of-fact responses and wanting my own character … to project that same respectful understanding when faced with complex spiritual issues.”

The answer, after the jump.

“Most people — the vast majority whose physical sex matches their gender identities — don’t realize that ‘covenant’ applies to gender until they see someone like me breaking it.”

Joy Ladin’s thoughtful and tender meditation on “Breaking the Gender Covenant” sparked an outpouring of supportive comments and generous reflections. Some thanked us for challenging commonly held assumptions; others offered stories of their own family’s experience with transgender transition.
Sally MccuenSally Mccuen from suburban Detroit wrote on our Facebook page:

“This touched my heart. My dear dad courageously transgendered at the age of 73. Once she could freely live as the woman she had always knew herself to be, she was the most peaceful, happy and loving person. She died two years ago from a stroke, but not after she had lived 6 wonderful years as the person she always wanted to be.”

Ms. Ladin’s essay also sparked some questions. Annette Murrell asked to hear further conversation:

“I’ve been reading about Joy’s ex-wife, Christine, and her own memoir about surviving the breakup of her marriage. I was disturbed at what seems to be a silencing of her voice, and I was also disturbed about the the many online comments that vilified Joy. I would love to hear a conversation with Christine about her experiences, or at least hear Joy speak about his (sic) reaction to his wife’s book. I see both sides of their story, and I plan to read both of their memoirs. I send my blessings out to both and their children.

Check out more of other readers’ reflections and add your voice to the conversation. A big thank you to the journal Sh’ma, which allowed us to reprint Ms. Ladin’s essay.

Recall me mentioning our five-day power outage in Minneapolis last week? This is what my yard looked like during the rains. I actually had a creek for a short while!

What a great photo of a cow hanging outside the ancient Armenian monastery of Harichavank in Turkey. Pete Speiser and his wife Anna Rudberg Speiser offer a kernel of insight on the Armenian connection to the earth.

Krista kicks off almost all of her interviews with a mundane question for our sound check, “What did you have for breakfast this morning? For me, the essentials: Sacco. Strawberries. Yogurt. Coffee.

Put yourself in the guest’s seat. How might you answer this question? Send me a visual at or to @TrentGilliss. I’ll post some of my favorites on our Instagram and Tumblr pages — and maybe even feature a few here. Be creative. Be artsy. Be stylistic. It’ll be fun!

To send you off this Saturday morning, an enchanting performance by Cecilia Bartoli singing Ravel. Listen to this exquisite piece.

And, please know that if you ever want to get in touch with me — to critique, to suggest a voice, to submit a post for publication — you can always reach me at @TrentGilliss on Twitter or at Or follow our show account (@Beingtweets). It’s got personality too!

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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