[This post is part of a series on Mentors and Heroes]
Chris Baum is a user experience consultant and the Editor-in-Chief of Boxes and Arrows, a peer-written journal for designers. Previously he was a senior project manager at eTrade and Jaman.com, an online social cinema company. Follow him on Twitter @cb.
Chris Baum’s hero is…
Joseph Campbell, mythologist and writer
How long have you known of your hero and have you ever met?
8 years, never met.
How has your hero had such a profound impact on your life?
Campbell had an amazing capacity to interpret the mythic inner life that drives our actions. He took that interpretation and was able to align it in such a way that you can understand how the web of humanity fits together so beautifully. The amazing thing about it is that he can illuminate the souls inner drive in a way that you just know is right. The scientific equivalent would be to understand all of the human mechanisms with successful experiments.
His comparative approach influences my work in that he find connections across what seem to be completely unrelated cultures, and he aligns disparate intents in such a way that they harmonize rather than clash.
How do you gain knowledge and inspiration from your hero?
I first “met” him in The Power of Myth (PBS Series), but have since gotten to appreciate him more fully in his New Dimensions talks and books, especially Myths to Live By. When I’m feeling adrift, I put the ND pieces on shuffle and get what I need. It is completely worth the price ($14).
What is one piece of wisdom your hero has been quoted as saying that has stuck with you the most?
“The insecure way is the secure way.”
What else do you want the world to know about your hero?
When I introduce Campbell to people, so many have a negative reaction to some of his language. For example, he uses “Oriental” very often, and his attitude towards women can be interpreted as patriarchal. I understand that reaction, but the reality is if one can get past those language foibles (realizing he grew up in the early 1900s and that by man/woman he means male/female), a rich, vibrant, and critical treasure of human understanding awaits.
In fact, I think we’re looking for our next Campbell right now.
Thank you Chris for sharing your hero with us!
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