The Hero Journey And The Ordinary World
More than a decade ago, as I was approaching 50, I ran to a mountain – a big hill, really – and spent a year considering how I wanted to live my life, and what it meant to have a meaningful life. I wanted to consider the rest of my life, not just live it.
I didn't know it, but that was the beginning of my hero journey.
The mythologist Joseph Campbell studies the most enduring myth of the world, and found many, if not all of them, had a similar narrative, the different stages of adventure, he called it.
The hero journey begins with the hero's normal life at the story of the story, before the adventure begins. There is the call to adventure, often a problem, challenge or crisis that needs to be overcome. The hero attempts to refuse the adventure because he is afraid. He encounters mentors and magical helpers who can give him advice and prepare him for the journey ahead. The hero leaves his ordinary world for the first time, he crosses the threshold into adventure.
He leaves behind everything that is familiar. He enters the realm of the unknown. If he lucky, he will return, whole. If not, he may be damaged forever, or lost.
There, in the new realm, he learns the rules of his new world, he endures tests of strength, of will, he meets friends, and faces enemies. Setbacks and failures occur, forcing him to try new approaches and come up with new ideas. The hero faces major hurdles and obstacles, including the possibility of death. And then, reward. After surviving near death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal. The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life. Resurrection. The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and he must use everything that he has learned, and summon every bit of strength.
The hero brings his knowledge and wisdom back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there. He is never the same.
The hero journey was popularized by Campbell, it was applied to Star Wars, some movies and novels, even Disney characters and cartoons. But it has rarely been applied to ordinary life, the word "hero" is not necessarily heroic.
I am an ordinary man, it did not realize for the longest time that I was on such a journey when I left the ordinary world and came to this strange and mysterious place. There, I endured many tests of strength – savage winter, mental illness, loneliness and near ruin
I faced many hurdles, made new friends, nearly died. I was rewarded. I found Maria. I accomplished my goal – love and connection. I was a writer, then a photographer as well. There was a kind of resurrection. I left my remote hideout and returned to the Ordinary World, not the original one but a new one, a world I shared with my love. In the past year I faced some final tests – my work, life and home were at stake. I have used every single thing I have ever learned, and summoned every bit of strength that I had.
Now, in my writing, my teaching, my photography, I seek to bring my knowledge and wisdom, such as it is, back to the ordinary world, and I offer it and apply it to all who wish it or need it. I see to encourage creativity, the call to adventure. My life will never be the same.
I didn't know the hero journey could be the life of someone so ordinary, you do not have to be Luke Skywalker. It begins with normal life, before the adventure beings. A book writer, walking his dogs every morning in a safe and prosperous suburb of New York. There, I heard the call to adventure, and I attempted to refuse it, I was so afraid.
I understand it will never really be over, I am awed and humbled to have taken such an extraordinary trip. When I meet a fellow traveler, I know him or her right aware, we share an instant bond and understanding.
That is how Maria and I came together, we were both on the journey, we recognized this instantly in one another, and it connected us to each other in a powerful way. So it is my duty and mission to share what I saw and felt and learned, and I try to do that.
I am feeling a powerful urge to continue this experience, to once again stop and consider my life and how I want to live it. I do not wish to be a hollow man, reacting and existing and living a life of fear and caution.
The journey has ended. The journey has just begun.