"If you’re interested in mythology or storytelling and, in particular, if you’re involved in the movie storytelling business like I was, then [Joseph] Campbell is your guide... but not your savior. Ever since it was revealed that George Lucas used The Hero With a Thousand Face as a guide while crafting the story for Star Wars, screenwriters and executives thought they had discovered the Holy Grail, the key to turning every movie into a giant resonating hit. But it doesn’t quite work that way. There’s much more to storytelling then painting by numbers or plotting by Campbell. It’s a skill and a craft born of hard work, sweat and tears. But there’s also a magic ingredient involved that no one, not even Campbell, knows how to describe... or where it even comes from. Without it no story can resonate and endure the test of time. It has less to do with a secret structural formula and more to do with alchemy... and luck.
But if there is an answer or even a hint at a glimpse of a notion of an answer, it probably lies somewhere in the field of Mythological Studies...
I’m really proud of the work I did [in these essays[ and even though they are academic papers, they feel like they still have my voice. While I was preparing them for publication I noticed that right out of the gate I was gravitating toward the Jungian Shadow and the Trickster. I was also being a bit of a trickster myself, writing academic papers about The Matrix and Gene Simmons and doing a full-on Jungian analysis of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? My professor for that one, Dr. Glen Slater, wrote a note on the back: “I started reading this skeptically but ended somewhat of a convert... the Shaggy/Scooby ‘fourth’ thesis grew in strength as you went along.” I was delighted. Not only did I convert him, I made him say “Shaggy/Scooby” academically and non-ironically! Score one for the trickster!
I wrote another paper for a Ritual and Ceremony class called “The Wind Beneath Our Wings: Divine Inspiration and Shadow Exaltation in Rites of (Gas) Passage.” Yes, I wrote an academic paper on flatulence rituals and customs across diverse cultures. It became the basis for my dissertation on flatulating tricksters in world mythologies.
Not all of my papers were pop or fart oriented. I wrote a few darker ones as well. In “The One and the Other,” I looked into the accusations that Carl Jung was anti-Semitic (spoiler: he wasn’t). I also wrote a very cynical paper about the fate of our planet called “Embracing the Cosmic Chill Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the H(uman)-Bomb.” In that paper, I quoted John Burroughs, a fairly obscure naturalist who coined the phrase “Cosmic Chill” and defined it as the realization that the universe is going its own way with no thought of us. Cold, hard truth. I had previously used his same quote in the Matrix paper. I was quite enthralled and frightened by this concept of the Cosmic Chill, and I still am. It would also make a great band name.
All of the papers in this anthology were written for classes at Pacifica Graduate Institute between the fall of 2004 and the summer of 2007. I’m presenting them in order so that, hopefully, there’s some kind of evolution detectable. At the end of the book, you can see what paper was written for what class.
One more story, before I let you go. In the middle of all these classes and all these papers and all the trips to Pacifica (which we delightfully referred to as our very own Hogwarts), I was hired by New Line Cinema and Sam Raimi’s company to write a big new tent-pole version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It was a long way from the comedies I had been writing so I didn’t want to screw it up. Long story short, it turned out to be my best script and, no pun intended, my deepest. It literally changed the trajectory of my career. It didn’t get made (not yet), but it became one helluva calling card. It was even the script my agents sent as a writing sample that helped to land me the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. job. That script has been the gift that keeps on giving, and it’s still one of the best things I’ve written. The reason: Pacifica. When you’re immersed in mythology and storytelling the way I was for three years, you can’t help but come out the other end as a much better writer and, dare I say, a writer who can offer maybe just a tiny bit of mythic resonance sprinkled on top.
This is where it all began. With these papers. I hope you find some bliss in them."