Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lesson #15: Your Hero's Journey

If you're like many of us, lately you've been thinking more about the meaning and purpose in your life. Maybe you've been starting to sense the vastness and complexity of  human life. What was once black and white is now many shades of gray. For example, lately it seems that whenever I form a strong judgment against someone or something, life immediately proves me wrong (the "mean" person demonstates great kindness, or the "stuck up" person turns out to be painfully shy).

Our lives represent layer upon layer of experience and meaning, and the journey we're on is truly heroic. What does this mean? Let's look at the work of the great American mystic, Joseph Campbell.

Joseph Campbell spent years studying and comparing the mythologies of the world, and two of his favorite universal themes were the Hero's Journey, which is the story of humanity's quest for enlightenment, and the Perennial Philosophy, which says that the kingdom of God lies within each of us, or in Campbell's words, "You are the mystery which you are seeking to know."

A hero is someone who has struggled through adversity, lived through great pain, and been transformed by it. He or she eventually uses this experience to help others.

Some modern-day Western myths that exemplify these themes are: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Avatar. In each story, we have a reluctant, would-be hero, an average sort of guy who for one reason or another finds himself in the uneviable position of having to lead the fight of good versus evil. In each case, the hero is outnumbered, overwhelmed, and ill-equipped, but through perseverance, intent, and basic goodness is able to call forth that which is necessary to get the job done.

The truth is that we each have a unique story (and battle), and most of who we are exists below the surface of our awareness. We humans are on a grand journey, a hero's journey of sorts. It's not that we're fighting evil, but we're fighting the illusion of evil, which is the backdrop of this stage set we call life. Each time a hero conquers his or her fears (the illusion of separation from source) the angels sing, for there is no greater moment than when a soul returns safely home from battle.

When, in the midst of the scariest dream imaginable, we realize that there's no real danger, that everything we needed we possessed all along, the universe lights up and expands in all directions. The birth of something new and beautiful takes place. This, I believe, is what we came here for. And you, I believe, are a hero.