A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on [her] fellowman. Joseph Campbell
My friend Margaret and I spoke by phone yesterday; she shared with me that she has dealt with illness on a grand-scale over the past six months, both her father’s illness and her own.
It has been tough. But she is bowed, not broken, and this experience seems to be marking the beginning of story in which she is playing a central, purposeful role in her life, embarking on her own hero’s journey.
In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the key elements of the hero’s journey as follows:
Call to adventure, which the hero must accept or decline
Road of trials, where the hero can succeed or fail
Achieving the goal or boon, which often results in important self-knowledge
Return to the ordinary world, the hero must return, and again succeed or fail
Application of the boon, what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world
So that you can better identify your own hero’s journey, let me describe how I see this archetype applying to my friend Margaret’s situation.
Call to adventure -- Illness, both Margaret’s and her father’s.
At its simplest, the call comes because of a crisis, of any kind, which we choose to face or to run from.
Road of trials -- Will the illness help clarify what matters to her, and deepen her relationship with her father and with her family? Yes and yes.
The Road of Trials is always a succession of experiences, which if we survive, amplifies our consciousness. Almost always, the hero will find new strength and power.
Achieving the goal or boon - Because of her illness, Margaret has set a June 2007 goal participate in a 7-day, 545-mile cycling fundraiser along the California coast. This goal will allow her to ride farther than she’s ever ridden, provide many opportunities for cycling photographs (one of her dreams), while raising money for causes that she cares about. She has also set a goal to walk a 5K with her father in July 2007.
Setting out and achieving this goal is something that will allow the hero to become more of who she is.
Return to the ordinary world - Once Margaret has achieved this goal, what will she do next? Will she want to continue in this new place?
The return can be so difficult. Once we’ve experienced a bliss, whether relaxing on vacation with loved ones, Margaret's cycling to raise money, or doing volunteer/non-profit work in a far-flung place as I did in Uruguay and my friend Jennifer is currently doing in India, it can be very difficult to reconcile our newfound and prior perspectives.
Application of the boon - How will she Margaret use what she learned on this particular journey to make her prior world, and especiallly herself, a better person?
Now for the important question:
Does moving ourselves to the center of our lives require we stop being feminine, setting aside our instinct to nurture?
You know what I am going to say -- Absolutely not.
As with the Psyche myth, Margaret’s call to adventure came in part because of the illness of a loved one. In fact -- and this is key -- were it not for her connectedness to he father, this journey (at least in part) may not have happened.
Where are you in your own hero’s journey? Have you just received your call to adventure? Or are you currently returning to the ordinary world?
How will you record and share your story?
Where possible, please share your stories with us; we want to read, see, hear, experience the unfolding of your story, your personal myth(s)?