Jean Erdman, In Memoriam


Jean Erdman

Friday, May 8, 2020. Tonight is my last night shift. My new schedule, according to the electronic system, has me working seven hour shifts five days a week, starting at 7am except for a day next week at noon to 6pm. Five days a week at seven hours a day comes to thirty-five hours a week, which as far as I know is full time. Which is not at all what I signed up for. But perhaps the shifts are place fillers until things get worked out, who knows? An “(X)” appears beside each shift, for example, and who knows what that means? At this point, early in the job and the transition, I’m keen to remain as cavalier and flexible as possible. I don’t want to fret about shit or get hung up on expectations or otherwise fight whatever it is that the world-of-action is presenting. Money is a tool and it flows in and out in the best case even if I don’t know exactly what to use it for besides compensating for my publishing expenses and now helping to fill the gap in Angie’s supposedly temporarily reduced salary (now the money I’m making only serves to maintain our previous income – we’re financially treading water). I long to sell books instead of working a job. I long to be an authorpreneur. Employment pays but offers nothing else and in fact threatens to again derail my intentions. Dream another dream, then?

No. I know my dream and I’m holding to it unless it somehow comes to pass that loosening my grip – an inevitable price to pay for committing to a job, any job – results in it slipping away. This is the risk that must be managed. The fact is, I’m not selling books and advertising and the audiobook are costing significant sums that need to be covered. Such is life and I can only do my best to strike a balance that encourages a sense of progress and keeps breathing life into what matters most to me. This authorpreneurship goal is unfortunately going to take far longer and will require far more money to sustain or, more accurately, subsidize than I ever could have expected. Or assumed that I could endure. Indeed, I may not be capable of enduring it. The financial outlay may grind my faith and will and determination into dust. The dream may vanish under the assault of the demands of the world-of-action. The silence and indifference may break me. And the money has to be there, in the end; the writing has to be sustainable financially or it all crashes and burns.

One day at a time, then. Meanwhile, Angie is experimenting with looking for a dog, a miniature Australian shepherd is her first choice (the same breed as the neighbor’s dog that she likes to borrow), placing herself on waiting lists, communicating with breeders, exerting her influence in favor of her personal mythology while enduring the adjudications and threshold guardians that are always keen to counter one’s efforts. Dogs. I was compelled to send an email inquiring about Chase (our Canaan that we had to return to the breeder in Illinois, the story of which appears in the 2018 DOP). He wasn’t suited to a busy body neighborhood environment, chock with other dogs and unknown people and ceaseless distractions and stimulations. It all made him anxious to the point of making him aggressive. I’ll leave the details of that challenge for whenever (if ever) I get around to posting the entries. The breeder replied:

“Chase was doing very well here, so I didn’t hesitate when a home opened up in Georgia with a family that has had three of our dogs. I think he is very happy. He is well loved.  They send pictures occasionally. I’ll try and forward to you the next time they send.”

Frankly, I wish he would have stayed put at the breeder’s. I hate it when I hear of dogs being passed along. But it’s a common thing, I know, and a hard thing to live with, giving up your dog and knowing he’s had to adapt to such change. But so be it, it had to be done for the benefit of us and him. I see too many people ruin their lives and their dog’s life by way of not letting go of an intractable difficulty. Love does not conquer all in the sense of the practical things. People and dogs need to be who they are and sometimes no amount of love between them can resolved the impossible realities. Hard decisions, sadness, a sense of regret and failure, it’s all part of the cost and the risk in taking on a dog.

You must be prepared to discard your plans…. So suggests Campbell. And heed omens, such as they are. Yesterday when I accepted the new job offer I endured the sinking feeling of once again over-committing to this employment racket and risking my happiness and my vocational destiny on behalf a shortsighted grasping at money. I’ve lived this shitty story so many times before, after all and I’m determined not to make the same mistakes. Yet, here I am struggling to identify the differences, the changes, so as not to be crushed by the idea that I’m repeating myself, repeating the doomed scenario of mythologically devastating compromise.

Jean Erdman. I had an impulse to check the Joseph Campbell Foundation website and I find that Jean Erdman died May 4th at the age of 104, in Hawaii of course, where she was born and where she semi-retired together with Campbell in his later years. Campbell appears as himself in TC2 and again, with Jean, in TC3 and when I was obtaining permissions from the JCF for the TC1 material I’d requested permission also to use their likenesses in literary form and I was granted permission (the story of the TC1 permissions appears in DOP8) per M.L. of the JCF:

“Our legal folks recommend using this language:

‘This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner.

‘The use of Joseph Campbell’s name as a fictional character in this work does not constitute an endorsement of such use by the Joseph Campbell Foundation.

‘The use of Jean Erdman Campbell’s name as a fictional character in this work does not constitute an endorsement of such use by Jean Erdman Campbell.'”

Anyway, I’d been following her status as much as one can, given that she wasn’t ever in the news nor did anything ever appear about her on Meanwhile, her death inspired an article in The New York Times:

Time heals but only so much. I prefer being older rather than younger but the burden of loss catches up with you, eventually. I’d maintained the silly fantasy that I’d get the TC volumes published quickly enough that somehow Jean would see a copy and see herself fictionalized – mythologized – for better or worse. Knowing all along that I’d never be able to work fast enough. And now it will never happen. She functioned as a kind of avatar of J.C. for me, while she lived, which isn’t fair to her, I suppose – she had her own long life apart from Campbell. But authentic guides and examples for one’s own life are not easy to come by and when they’re gone, when only the writing or news clippings remain, I don’t know, it’s just sad in its way regardless. Goodbye, Jean.

No vintage post today, it doesn’t seem right.