Friday, January 11, 2008

The Natural (Wo)Man

I heard Joseph Campbell tell of struggling to get his work accepted in academia. Because his work is now so revered, we might not realize (or have forgotten) that for a long time his studies were ridiculed. Was he treated like Simpleton in today’s story, “The Queen Bee?” (for another similar Simpleton tale check out the classic “The Three Feathers.”) It must have taken great courage to ignore the politics and intrigues that surrounded him and risk (if not his job), his reputation, and likelihood of promotion.

So while he was writing about the hero’s journey, Campbell was living it—risking much to be true to his vision and calling.

Another story of fighting the status quo is told in an article in Navy commander D. Michael Abrashoff was given command of the USS Benfold. Abrashoff says, “All I ever wanted to do in the navy was to command a ship. I don't care if I ever get promoted again. That attitude has enabled me to do the right things for my people instead of doing the right things for my career.”

Abrashoff recognized that when Navy officers succumb to career pressures they make poor choices for their people. Abrashoff decided to simply care for his crew in novel (but common sense) ways, such as finding time to periodically talk to every sailor on his ship. He responded to their needs without following standard procedure. (When he learned that credit-card debt, not housing, was hurting his crew he brought financial counselors aboard.) Abrashhoff risked his career to follow his own inner voice and he revitalized not only his ship but the entire Navy.

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