Interviewsand Articles


Following Your Bliss

by Richard Whittaker, May 14, 2013



These widely different stories have one thing in common. In each, the protagonist is following his or her own deep promptings. Joseph Campbell’s catch-phrase “follow your bliss” entered the lexicon long ago. But following a deep calling is not always bliss. In following her passion for service, Varsha Mathrani contracted malaria. As she writes about her experience, even this ordeal seems to have opened doors to new understandings. Reading her account, one may sense, as I did, that her story has just begun.
     Barbara Ganzkow was among the first women in the U.S. to pilot large commercial, jet-powered aircraft. As a flight attendant, sometimes she would visit the pilots in the cockpit. On one flight, while watching them at work, the thought came to her: I could do this. It's a long way from a thought to a reality and there were plenty of hurdles that stood in her way, beginning with her own anxiety once she set out in earnest. She talks about her amazing journey.
     Anne Veh, a contributing editor for the print magazine, introduced me—with keen enthusiasm—to the writer, Jane Wodening. What to say about this remarkable woman? “Doors of Perception” is the title that came to me for the interview we did with Jane. Wodening writes about the particular birds and insects and critters she meets—and all of nature, really: nature in the particular. She is a close observer. If it helped get closer to the truth, I’d say that she’s a very close observer. Jane Wodening is a door of perception—as are we all, in theory. But through Jane's eyes we meet wonders unseen by the rest of us.  
     Anne Veh also introduced me to photographer John Upton. John has had a full career as photographer, a teacher of photography and as an author of books on photography. I wanted to learn about his own journey and especially about his experiences with his famous teacher, Minor White. This is the story of how looking at a portfolio of Edward Weston prints sent an 18-year old on the journey of the rest of his life.   
    And we meet Tim Sessler and Autumn Brookmire, not yet thirty years old, and passing through the Bay Area. Talking with them, I couldn’t help thinking they were indeed, following their bliss—that they were on an early leg of the journey. Tim, a native of Germany, is traveling through the U.S. and filming the people he meets. It’s his way of discovering the real United States. The two of them talk about their journey.
     None of these are sugarcoated stories and yet I think you’ll find each is inspiring it its own way.  Welcome to issue #27. —Richard    Whittaker    

About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conversations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine. 


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