Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Long Way Home

I just finished reading Andrew McCarthy's new book 'The Longest Way Home - One Man's Quest For the Courage to Settle Down'. He is surprisingly a gifted writer, sensitive to portraying the difficulties of settling down for someone who is fleet-footed like him, with a spirit of a nomad traveling the world to find himself. Apparently he is a well regarded travel writer although as an actor he is not as distinguished in his first career as in his current one. His book appeals to me because it speaks of similar longings, especially for one who has lived in different countries and still finding himself in new surroundings. McCarthy writes about his visits to Patagonia, Costa Rica, Baltimore, Vienna  and his climb up Kilimanjaro before his scheduled wedding in Ireland.

McCarthy basically writes about the fear of settling down; the old fear of establishing roots and having a family, of raising kids. So he goes on a voyage of self discovery, to different places in order to find himself and understand his fear of settling down before finally accepting the inevitability of his marriage. The fear is a standard for almost all young men as they approach adulthood, overcoming wanderlust and stopping the temptation to sow one's seeds at the ends of the earth. Basically the temptation to remain single and live an unencumbered life without familial responsibilities. McCarthy is a better writer than his fellow actor and brat packer Rob Lowe who wrote about his experience in Hollywood. Instead McCarthy uses the classic storytelling device of the hero going out in a voyage to find himself and return with a secret of inner knowledge.

This is the classic hero story as described by Joseph Campbell. McCartney uses this device effectively in his book. Recently I watched Bill Moyer's interview with Campbell before his death, especially on his work 'A Hero with 1000 Faces'. His influence cannot be understated especially to modern writers and filmmakers like George Lucas. Campbell reminds me of those great Indian sages or philosophers like Krishnamurti whereas Campbell obtained his insights via intellectual study and travels to different places in the world. This work is important especially today in understanding modern life and Campbell provides empirical evidence as against spiritual truth attained through meditation and spiritual evolution. He is the modern version of the enlightened philosopher who uses scientific inquiry to validate the ancient wisdom of the ages. His work should be considered the new religion.

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