Friday, December 23, 2011


Path to Adventure, Flint Hills, Central KS

Joseph Campbell’s classic study of the heroic journey in world mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, outlines the three stages of departure, initiation and return. The heroic journey has all of us as its symbolic subject and traces the hero-paths of our own journey, from potential to full actuality of our true self. The film Star Wars is a great contemporary example. Campbell writes, “This first stage of the mythological journey—which we have designated as the ‘call to adventure’—signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight. The hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure, as did Theseus when he arrived in his father’s city, Athens, and heard the horrible history of the Minotaur; or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent, as was Odysseus, driven about the Mediterranean by the winds of the angered god, Poseidon…And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”

The odyssey begins with the potential hero leaving home, the ubiquitous comfort zone. Genesis 12 relates the beginning journey of Abraham and Sarah to found the world’s three monotheistic religions. God instructs them to “leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the new land that I will show you.” Jesus also called His disciples to leave their families and homes to follow Him. Bob Buford’s book Halftime is essentially about transitioning the second period of your life from one of success to one of significance. Success is good in our first period of life as it lays the groundwork to freely achieve goals of significance. Life at this stage is no longer about money or the approval of others—it’s about finding your sacred dance as your character has matured and grown. It’s about deferring your visions and dreams to God’s vision for you to use your acquired skills and talent to serve the common good. It’s no longer so much about gathering but spreading the seeds of goodness in the world around us. It’s about leaving your homey comfort zone and setting out once again to fulfill your ultimate destiny. It’s about changing the formula from pursuing external happiness to achieving internal joy in your life. George Bernard Shaw famously noted, “There are two sources of unhappiness in life. One is not getting what you want; the other is getting it.” The second period of life is getting what our creator wants for us.

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