Tag Archives: Joseph Campbell

Episode XXXII: The Everyday Hero

Episode XXXII

The Everyday Hero

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

~ Joseph Campbell

 The Foda’s Take: Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and Princess Leia’s reaction to first seeing the Millenium Falcon rings in my ears: “You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought!” We don’t usually refer to our bodies as vehicles, pasted together with hope, some hard work, and one freakishly loyal Wookie. But when that vehicle begins to sputter and protest, leaving you stranded on Cloud City… well, that’s when a doubled bun-ed beauty ought to come over, look you up and down and say: “You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought!”

 Heroes. We all have likely fantasized of being one at one time or another, or at least wished that perhaps one of the tall, dark, and handsome variety might come along to sweep us off our feet. (Yes, boys, handsome used to be universally applicable to women, too… oh, you’re taking point on the “tall” part? You don’t want your lady love to be taller than you? Why you gotta hate on linearly luscious lassies?) But I digress.

The typical perception of heroes is that they’re rare and more likely to be found on the pages of a comic book than the streets of (Fill in Your Home Town Here.) But it wasn’t until someone introduced me to Joseph Campbell’s theory of “The Hero’s Journey” that I started to view heroism- and heroes for that matter- in a very different way.

In Campbell’s model, the Hero is the everyday man or woman who receives a “call to adventure.” (Since Campbell wrote the model using the male pronoun, so will I… but ladies, don’t you dare think this doesn’t apply to you!!!)

Now, of course, real Heroes wouldn’t be human if they jumped up right away and said “Sure! I’ll leave everything behind and throw down with some scary monstrosity! Let me at ‘em!” So, naturally, the Hero is reluctant. Then the Hero meets a mentor, guiding and supporting him to cross the threshold of ordinary life and begin his journey. Here he faces tests, enemies, and struggles, as he begins the approach to the big obstacle in his path. I like to call this the Labyrinth- although it’s more commonly termed the “Abyss.” (But for me, the vision of a maze is more appropriate when applied to every day life. After all, life isn’t one endless dark hole, but a series of choices we often make blind, turning this way and that, hoping we’ve made the right decisions as we try and find our way to the other side.)

At the end of the Labyrinth, the Hero finds his reward, and begins to make his way back home. It is on this final leg of the journey that he turns full circle, crossing back into the realm of ordinary, reflecting on all he’s learned upon his journey, and returning a better and wiser man.

Now this story line may sound very familiar to you. Why? Because it’s the model George Lucas used when he wrote Star Wars! Think about it. Luke, our reluctant Hero, agrees to go with Ben once his aunt and uncle are incinerated into black crisps, and from there begins his journey to save the Galaxy, fighting rancors, Snow beasts, and the Dark Side along the way…. Sigh. Love Star Wars.

So how does this apply to me? you may be asking. Well, because I believe we all have the ability to be a Hero in our own lives. And if you, too, are dealing with a chronic illness, you may often feel beaten down and lost in the Labyrinth, vehemently attesting how you never wanted this journey, just wishing for a Hero to come and show you the way home. But what if we are the Heroes? What if learning to live through the struggle and come out the other side a better, wiser person is the most important, character building thing we’ll ever do? What if all we have to do is change our thinking from “this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me” to “I didn’t choose it, but I accept my call to adventure to plunge into the unknown.”

So today, I’m officially redefining the term Hero. It’s not just for some far-off mythological creature who battles Poseidon or moves mountains with The Force. A Hero is anyone who faces the Labyrinth, the Abyss, and presses on, despite all fear and all doubt that the light at the end will ever appear. This is true courage, and bravery, and perseverance, everything a Hero should have.

So today, I hope you ask yourself- am I a Hero?

And if the most Heroic thing you can do today is breathe… maybe that’s okay. After all, we never know what’s coming around the corner…..

BOO!

Just kidding :) But I bet you were totally ready to ninja-chop the computer if need be. You go, warrior-hero!

Hiiiiyah!

The Foda